BP: An Example Worth Studying

Anyone in the public relations field can use BP as an example in how to respond to a major crisis.

Everyone in the field of public relation is still criticizing British Petroleum (BP)for the actions it took or did not take in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 and for the way they tried to push the blame onto everyone else.

Everyone highly critiques the way the company responded to the situation because there was such a delay in releasing official report on the incident.  BP did not release their formal internal report about the ongoing issue until September. According to Justin Goldsborough, immediate response to a crisis is essential for any company. This time gap caused many people to become even more critical of BP.

More problems arose with the release of this statement.  It became evident that the BP executives were trying to push off some if not most of the blame onto two other companies: Halliburton and Transocean. The attempt to use those companies as a scapegoat infuriated critics and made BP’s reputation sink further. Not only is it important to respond in a timely manner, the way you respond to even the smallest incident is equally important.

Two obvious rules of thumb shine through when you look at the way BP responded to the oil spill situation.

  • Always make a statement as soon as possible so that people do not wonder how your company will respond.
  • Never try to shift the blame to someone else. Wait until the other party publicly announces their responsibility before you do it for them, even if another party is partially responsible.

President Obama and Governor Crist observing the beaches during clean up in Pensacola, Fl.

On the positive side, BP did take some steps that actually helped their reputation. They may have been delayed, but they still helped. BP dedicated a whole section of its website to detail its restoration activities. The headline of the first page states, “BP remains committed to remedying the harm that the spill caused to the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Coast environment, and to the livelihoods of the people across the region.”

Now that they stepped up and took responsibility, they are taking several steps of action to fix what happened.

  • BP is constantly releasing new commercials explaining to the average person what they were doing to help clean up the mess.
  • They are working to compensate individuals for their losses by having already paid over $2 billion to those affected by the spill.
  • BP is now working to remove the oil from the ocean and affected coasts.
  • BP is also working to help the affected wildlife.

The commercials, compensation and clean up efforts have pushed BP back into a more positive light in the public eye, which is the main goal for any public relations department. BP is now a prime example for public relations as a whole for not only what they did wrong but also what they did right.