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.

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Mission: Space

Disney World dealt with the same crisis twice: the death of a guest after riding Mission Space.

Everyone loves Walt Disney World. It’s full of fun and adventure. Unfortunately for two vacationing families, this was not the case. The ride called Mission: Space in the theme park EPCOT, according to Disney, realistically mimics a flight to Mars by spinning the riders in a car. They are spun so fast that the centrifugal force on them, twice the normal force of gravity, makes it feel like they are flying through space as depicted on the screen in front of them.

The centrifugal force on the ride is so intense that Disney has had to place motion sickness bags on the ride for each passenger because so many get sick.  This force is also what caused a 4-year-old boy to die in June 2005 of heart failure and 49-year-old woman to die in April 2006 from high blood pressure and bleeding of the brain.

Since these deaths and multiple reports of motion sickness, Disney has created a less intense option of the ride for those who have restrictive medical conditions. Riders can choose to either be on the “Orange Team” or the “Green Team”.  The “Orange Team” gets to experience the original, intense version of the ride while members of the “Green Team” can now experience a less intense version without the strong centrifugal forces.

Disney also posted 13 signs throughout the queue leading up to the ride that repeatedly warn riders about its intensity and others detailing the differences in the two Teams and which would be appropriate for guests with health conditions.

Disney officials, however, deny that the reason behind these modifications had anything to do with the two deaths on the ride. They simply said that the reason they made the new version of the ride was to provide guests with options that would encourage them to make the appropriate choice based on their health conditions.

Disney’s spokespeople also repeatedly said after the two incidents that the ride was inspected and found to be working properly. They said nothing about the intensity of the ride, which was the cause of the two deaths. It is as if they would not admit that the ride may have been too rough. In doing this, Disney took little to no responsibility for the deaths of the two guests.

Disney could have done more in response to these incidents, such as admit that the ride is extremely intense and create more publicity about the less intense version of the ride to make guests feel more secure about riding it. But despite its troublesome past, the ride is still one of the most popular at EPCOT and Disney is still as much as a flourishing company as ever.