Hey BP, start writing really big checks

So far nothing has worked, but at least BP keeps trying to cap the gushing Gulf oil well. Give the company credit for trying. Not that it has any choice.

But BP has a choice when it comes to PR and it is failing miserably. Miserably.

BP can’t win the public relations battle — people are too mad and the damage too extensive — but the company should get imaginative in its approach to the public. It should start making significant payments to every Gulf Coast company hurt, or potentially hurt, by the spill.

I’m sure there is a corporate lawyer somewhere warning BP against being too generous and …

… admitting liability.

But now is exactly the time to be generous.

If a fishing boat captain says he has lost $20,000 due to the oil spill, pay him $50,000. If there is a question about the validity of the claim, err in favor of the business filing a claim.

 We all know these payments are pure PR, so why not buy as much good will as you can?

BP is spending a lot of money fighting the spill and it faces lawsuits and fines that will cut deeply into future profits, but it also has a lot of cash. In the fourth quarter of 2009 and first quarter of 2010, BP earned a combined profit of more than $9 billion.

If stopping the leak and cleaning up the mess costs every penny of BP’s profits for the last two quarters and the next two, so be it. At least it will still be in business.