After the delayed initial response BP’s official Press releases and relationship with the media continued to be strained and inconsistent. The Company was consistently under media focus but it failed to use the limelight to its advantage. Instead of being unco-operative and avoiding media interest in the crises the Company could have used the presence of media to take command and reverse a bad situation quickly. In the past media savvy companies have used their ability to understand how the media works to turn the crises around to their advantage in a timely manner.
BP could have done the same by being more honest with the media in describing the huge challenges that it faced in stopping the leak and implementing a successful cleanup operation. It could have described in detail how it was working together with the Government to deal with the crises. Instead the lack of media consistency made it appear that the company could not handle the crises on their own and had to ask for government help in the clean up operation.
This perception again reduced the faith and trust that the public had in he Corporation for government help made it seem like the company couldn't handle the situation on its own. One message that BP and its CEO did not convey to the public was empathy with their situation and that is what really helped the tide turned against the company. If the Company had utilized its massive PR infrastructure to communicate that they genuinely cared for the impact of the disaster and that they empathized with the plight of the fishermen and others affected by it perhaps its perception would have been different now.
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Instead the ex CEO Hayward’s comment that all he wanted was his life back sent a very insensitive message to the public and the victims of the crises indicating that as the CEO of BP he personally did not care for the damage inflicted on the community and the environment . (Hoggan 2010) However uncommunicative it was with conventional media BP did have a good strategy in using the social media and the web to its advantage. Though traditional methods of PR like official statements, press releases, interviews have all not worked in favour of BP it does appear to be having relative success with social media and networking.
Though its initial response was delayed in the social media sphere as it was in conventional media it has been utilizing social media much more than conventional sources to convey its responses and progress in containing the oil spill. In the age of the internet when a large proportion of the population rely on the web for its news and analysis this was a wise move. BP have created a section of its Web site dedicated to the spill, and have updated it with the latest progress on the cleanup related photos, video, and maps .
This web site gives a more direct perspective of the efforts being put in by the company to contain and correct the oil spill another website which the company supports is Deepwaterhorizonresponse. com, which has been created to provide a current and updated account of the disaster. Over the course of the crises the company has also been very regular in posting constant tweets about the latest successes in cleaning up and plugging the leak.
The crises and BP’s use of social network site such as twitter and Face book has created a whole new trend of using social networking sites for company propaganda Though the techniques for advancing propaganda have changed it has also made it easier to for BP to receive feedback and also respond more quickly to new developments on the crises But it does help a company respond faster and more precisely to new developments. BP has been using twitter to clarify its actions and also address rumours on some of its compensatory settlements with fishermen and other victims of the disaster.
It is also being used to inform people about the hotline setup to contact the company if they see any forms of oiled wildlife that can be saved by intervention from the company’s experts. BP has embraced new media with a greater success than conventional media. Even if it can do the damage to its reputation caused by its earlier mishandling of the public relation function it can still salvage some of it by providing regular updates to all those impacted and interested in how the crises develops and is eventually solved.
As is evident from the above analysis BP has committed several transgressions when it comes to its crises public relation function and these transgressions account for what has now evolved into an extreme example of a epic Public relations failure in Crises Management Today the company has lost all credibility in the eyes of both the public media and the Government. It stands at the verge of hundreds of lawsuits launched by people who consider themselves victims of the disaster and the company responsible for putting them in such a predicament.
Could the Company have avoided this massive breach of trust and managed to retain some of its credibility if it had simply released a statement and followed the basic rules of crises public relations at the onset of the disaster? Could BP have controlled the situation better if instead of apportioning blame it had opted for full disclosure and been honest about the causes and the impact of his disaster right from the very beginning?
Looking at these questions in the aftermath of the disaster the answer is a definitive yes. Even if the impacts of the disaster had remained the same an effective crises public relations campaign would have resulted in establishing a more positive , responsible and empathetic public image of the Corporation instead of the current image of a Rich Oil Mogul who must be punished for its negligent practices.
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