Branding in Body Armor: Risk and Respect in Southern Iraq

Forging an authentic and meaningful brand for major projects in complex and challenging regions is an under-rated tool for managing risk—but not at the Rumaila oilfield in Southern Iraq.

Bebbington

The message was blunt. In the hot and dusty degassing station on the north of the giant Rumaila oilfield, the Iraqis who had gathered to share their hopes, dreams, and expectations from BP and PetroChina’s contract to redevelop the field were clear. They wanted, above everything else, "to be respected." And, they told me, they wanted "to make Basrah beautiful again."

This was not a neat and tidy event—calling it a "focus group" (or even a "meeting") would imply a structure that, to be quite frank, it lacked. Outside, temperatures hovered around 50°C. Curious oilfield workers wandered in and out of the control room. Some were sceptical; some helpful and patient; some angry. At times, I found it difficult to keep track of what was being said. And I’m pretty sure my young interpreter was completely baffled about why on Earth we were there.

The reason was one of the most extraordinary chapters of my career. Put simply, we had decided to turn the principles of stakeholder engagement inward.

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