07/01/2010 01:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Right Image for a Bad Message

It's no wonder that BP finally replaced its CEO, Tony Hayward as its spokesman. He was the flash point for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In business as in sports, the manager gets fired after a big loss and Mr. Hayward made a mess of his job. From his now-infamous "I'd like my life back," quote to his stonewalling at a congressional hearing; he only served to make matters worse for his company. The last straw came last weekend when he flew home to the UK to observe his luxurious yacht in a race off the coast of England.

It's also no wonder that BP chose Bob Dudley as Mr. Hayward's successor. Mr. Dudley is a low-key, soft-spoken American, a sharp contrast to Mr. Hayward's upper-crust British persona.

The Doonesbury cartoon strip anticipated the switch even before the yachting gaffe when, Duke, the strip's running character who is always called in to fix shady dealings, counseled Mr. Hayward to lose "the fancy accent."

You have only to watch this embedded clip of Mr. Dudley being interviewed on PBS--a month before the managerial switch--to know that he was being groomed for the part. The Southern drawl, the wispy hair, the sedate jacket and the open collar shirt take the standard corporate slick spokesman image down a couple of notches.

It's the least that BP can do to provide the right image for a bad message.