However, this calmness did not translate into crisis management success. Although BP seemed to not be significantly affected by the situation, Hayward stated that the company was overwhelmed by the media attention. The former CEO blames the press for the image that the public has formed on the company in response to its handling of the situation.
The control that the company was supposed to reveal did not match the intensity of the crisis. BP did not show that it fully controlled the situation. The fact that the company tried to share the blame with the rig owner and the drilling company reveals the fact that the company was not in control of the situation. The numerous attempts and strategies that the company developed and implemented in order to stop or reduce the oil spill also prove the lack of control from BP.
The lack of control showed by BP can also be attributed to the fact that the company did not develop an accurate, detailed response plan to potential oil spills, as the regulations required it. If the company would have had a thorough plan to rely on, it is likely that its control might have been improved. In addition to this, the fact that BP had no suitable strategies for such situations led to the reduced control of BP.
The communication strategy established by BP in order to handle the oil spill situation was a defective one. With the proper communication strategy, BP would have been able to take advantage of the situation and reduce some of the image damages that this situation determined. Instead, the company was affected by not being able to handle the oil spill from a technical and communicational point-of-view.
BP had several opportunities it could have exploited with the suitable communication strategy. For example, the company should have taken charged of the situation from the beginning, instead of trying to minimize the effects of the explosion. BP should have focused on frequently informing the authorities and the public on the evolution of the situation, and not on trying to cover its severity.
In other words, the company should have organized frequent press conferences in order to present technical aspects on the size of the oil spill, its causes, potential effects, and strategies developed by BP in handling of the situation. Although this strategy would have not have been useful in actually stopping or reducing the damages, it could have significantly helped improve the company's image as a result of the scandal.
The continuous interest from the media is another opportunity that BP failed to exploit. Given the fact that the press was continuously addressing the company, all BP had to do was properly respond to the interest of the media. The press issued several accusations to BP that the company could have counteracted. Instead BP chose to not respond to them. By refusing to respond to these accusations, the public considered this as their recognition.
Marketing Communications Recommendations
It is obvious that BP failed at handling this situation. The severity of the situation and its effects make difficult for BP to restore its image and to gain the credibility of its investors, of the authorities, and of the public. It is also quite unlikely that the company will be able to improve its image on short-term. Instead, it is recommended that BP develops medium term and long-term strategies that could help convince its investors.
The most important marketing communications tool that companies can use in such situations...
The company should improve its communications relationship with the press. This can be achieved by providing news releases, press releases regarding BP's activity, and event sponsorships (Moore, 2010).
In addition to this, the company should involve in corporate social responsibility activities. In other words, BP should get involved in the life of the community it affects. This refers to actively involving in certain domains, like education, sports, and the environment. For example, the company should help build schools, invest in training programs, sponsor sports events, and investing in environmental actions (MMC Learning, 2009).
The oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico at the BP's rig is one of the most important environmental disasters that are related to the oil industry. Specialists in the field did not limit to analyzing the technical aspects regarding the rig explosion, but also developed thorough investigations on the company's communications strategy in this case. The results of these analyses were somewhat similar and referred to the fact BP was unable to properly handle the situation.
Executives of BP also admitted the fact that the company could not handle the media's attention. Even more, they blamed the continuous pressure from the media for the company's inability to communicate aspects about the evolution of the situation, and for building an image of the company that did not match the actual facts. BP was not just accused by the media, but also but the authorities, by experts in the field, and by companies in the oil industry.
1. Fitzgerald, a. (2010). BP Had Prepared for Oil Spill 10 Times Golf Disaster, Permit Plans Say. Bloomberg. Retrieved March 4, 2011 from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-31/bp-told-u-s-it-could-handle-oil-spill-10-times-larger-than-gulf-disaster.html.
2. Raines, B. (2010). BP Told Feds it Could Handle Oil Spill 60 Times Larger Than Deepwater Horizon. Retrieved March 5, 2011 from http://blog.al.com/live/2010/05/bp_told_feds_it_could_handle_o.html.
3. BP Ex-Chief Admits Company Was Ill-Prepared to Handle Oil Spill (2010). Empowered News. Retrieved March 5, 2011 from http://empowerednews.net/bp-ex-chief-admits-company-was-ill-prepared-to-handle-oil-spill/183629/.
4. Moore, K. (2010). Integrated Marketing Communications. Retrieved March 5, 2011 from http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Integrated_Marketing_Communications_-_5_Primary_Communication_Tools.html.
5. Marketing Communications (2009). MMC Learning. Retrieved March 5, 2011 from http://www.multimediamarketing.com/mkc/marketingcommunications/.
6. BP Hires Company to Handle Oil Spill Claims Whose Goal is "Reducing Payouts" for Clients (2010). Retrieved March 5, 2011 from http://blog.seizebp.org/2010/06/12/bp-hires-company-to-handle-oil-spill-claims-whose-goal-is-reducing-payouts-for-clients/.
7. Macalister, T. (2010). Gulf Oil Spill: An Industry at War with Itself. The Guardian. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
8. Bloxham, a. (2011). Systemic Failures to Blame for BP Deepwater Horizon Spill, U.S. Commission Finds. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
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