Thursday, June 24, 2010

BP's new media star addresses state task force

Darryl Willis, a new media new face for BP in its response to the ongoing Gulf oil spill, says he doesn't consider himself a star -- or a potential new target of the company's critics.

Willis, who oversees BP's claims process on the Gulf coast, spoke Wednesday in Tallahassee to the BP claims working group of the state Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force. Willis now is being featured in television commercials and full-page newspaper ads emphasizing his Louisiana upbringing. He says in the commercials that he volunteered to work in the Gulf and that he would be there "as long as it takes to make this right." Watch the commercial by clicking here.

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George H. Sheldon, the working group chairman, described Willis as a "BP star." But Willis said prior to the meeting, "I don't see myself as a star. I see myself as a person who makes sure these folks in communities along the Gulf coast get what they need from BP for the losses being felt. I try to keep my head down and focus on the day-to-day operations."

C. V. Harquail, corporate identity consultant in Montclair, N. J., says Willis' image contrasts with that of BP CEO Tony Hayward, who Harquail described as cold and distant. Willis fills the role of a "brandividual" -- a person whose personal qualities provide an image or message for a company -- often in social media, said Harquail, who has a Ph. D. in leadership and organizations from the University of Michigan.

With his polo shirts and khaki slacks, Harquail said, Willis seems more approachable. "The one-two punch of individuals and actual audio craft the impression, 'This is a good guy. He is trying hard. He will be there until it's finished. I'm going to like him,' " she said.

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting

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