Many Unhappy Returns: Gulf Oil Spill Anniversary

The recent passing of the anniversary of the Deep-water Horizon Oil Spill in which eleven were killed and 4.2 million barrels discharged into the Gulf of Mexico is spotlighting the on-going debate about how much damage this incident really may have done to the environment.

However there is no question that this incident had a profound impact on oil giant BP’s reputation. During the height of the crisis some thought that the damage might be long lasting.

Lately however pundits think it is just a question of time before the company gets the “all clear.”

While this crisis and how it was handled or mishandled is one for the PR textbooks, there is no textbook response to successfully managing communications when a catastrophe of this magnitude occurs. It’s both an art and a science.

How well or how poorly BP handled the situation will be a subject of debate for years to come. What do you think?

  • Below are some of the key tenets of crisis communications:
  • Crisis PR: The Golden Rules
  • Have a Plan – Prepare it in advance, share it, adhere to it.
  • Designate a Spokesperson – Someone who can powerfully tell your story.
  • Agree to Key Messages – Make them concise, clear and simple.
  • Be Proactive – Get in front of the issue before it gets in front of you.
  • Take Responsibility – Own up to the good and to the bad.
  • Be Authentic – People respond to what (or who) is genuine.
  • Listen to Feedback – And tailor your response to address it.
  • Manage Expectations – Under promise and over deliver.
  • Don’t Speculate – Focus on the facts, on the here and now.
  • Be Transparent – The truth inevitably comes to light.

The Last Word:

A crisis can make or break a company an individual or a brand.

As one of my favorite quotes attributed to 35thAmerican President John Fitzgerald Kennedy elegantly states it – “When written in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is comprised of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”