BP Public Relations Missteps Continue, More Lessons to Learn

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As if BP’s crisis response mistakes mentioned in a recent post weren’t enough, apparently their public relations disasters continue as more oil pumps into the saturated Gulf Coast.

Newly released documents reveal BP’s standard crisis response strategy to be “accentuate the positive, downplay the negative, tell everybody they’re sorry, they’re gonna fix it, they’re gonna do better, and not to worry.” Well, it is good that they developed a crisis communication plan, but it misses a key element—flexibility.

BP is Buying Facebook Ads as Part of their Damage Control Efforts

From Flickr User Geoff Livingston

Effective “damage control,” BP’s highest priority, means that your plan should include situation analysis development so your crisis response strategies, messages and tactics are relevant and resonate with your audiences. While taking into account the current news cycle is important when responding to crisis, it should be a part of your situation analysis and not your whole assessment.

And one more blunder of note—apparently BP has hired a private security company to block media from reporting from impacted beaches or interviewing people involved with the clean-up. This exchange between a local reporter and a security guard caught on video is the last thing a PR team would want posted online. These damage control tactics represent short-term thinking and are not helping your cause, BP.

Here’s a new communication strategy free-of-charge—provide full disclosure, access and transparency to the media.

Let them see and document it all: the oil spill containment process, polluted marshes and beaches, oil-covered animals, BP employees helping in the clean-up effort, local fishermen collecting oil from the Gulf. Answer all of their questions and make it clear that BP has nothing to hide or leave unanswered.

By doing so, you let the media tell the full story to the public—and your shareholders—and allow the public to draw its own conclusions and be your judge and jury, instead of relying on aggravated reporters to paint the picture.

2 comments to BP Public Relations Missteps Continue, More Lessons to Learn

  • Public Relations is all about pleasing the common people.`~~

  • I couldn’t agree more, Allison. Once communicators forget the common people, that’s when all the brand reputation problems occur. It would have served BP better if they focused their communication and efforts on helping those impacted by the oil spill rather than “circling the wagons” to protect their interests. Often, protecting the public’s best interest helps protect the brand better than implementing defensive communication tactics.

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