The British Petroleum Oil Spill
and Lack of Response
Last year, news spread of an oil spill off the Gulf Coast. These events occur periodically and usually register much media attention. As British Petroleum (BP) executives could not shut off the crude oil or prevent the damage it caused, people took notice. Millions of dollars in tourism, commerce and sales were lost. Thousands of wildlife acres and ecosystems were also compromised. There were more questions than answers.
What BP did to alleviate growing fears made the controversy. They said there were no problems initially, then denied there were problems then they could not fix the problem. BP executives were flabbergasted regarding the intense media attention and upset after being taken to task for their incompetence. This paper will explore the issues surrounding the giant mess and what can be learned from the incident.
The gulf Oil spill was bad; the company’s public relations strategy made matters worse. Their game plan was to stonewall the media, deny any responsibility and hope the issue would solve itself. Needless to say, that plan did not work—and they did not have a “Plan B.”
Media outlets demanded answers from BP concerning what caused the disaster that started April 10, 2010. It became one of the worst environmental spills in U.S. history. Instead of owning up to the problem and taking responsibility, the company went on an offensive-blame-fueled binge that left those affected by the events horrified and angry. (Houpe, 2010)
Instead of enlisting help, executives told people, “There’s nothing to see here, move
Public Relations Theories 2
along.” BP CEO Tony Hayward, said the pipes complied with local laws and regulations. The spill itself was not the company’s fault but that of another ship that ran into their equipment. Employing the blame game did nothing to help their credibility. (Houpe, 2010)
Hayward became the face of British Petroleum during the incident, and thus became the easy target for critics and politicians alike. Haywood appeared to know the situation; he just did not have any clue on implementing next steps. Think of Hayward as the equivalent of a headless animal. Without a strategy to locate the leak and cap it, there oil continued to devastate the land and water in the Gulf. Hayward often looked like someone who are unclear of the situation and/or how to proceed. That only fueled the problems BP faced and would move forward on containing the spill and the following follow up. (Luce, 2010)
What should have happened was BP executives, be it Hayward or someone else, proactively come out and said what happened in the Gulf, what was being done and its progress. That would have cleared many concerns up front and had everyone on board from the start. Instead, the company looked the other way. Unfortunately for BP, the spill got deeper and bigger as the days unfolded. That just added to the mounting troubles for the company.
These problems were nearly too...