City, State Zip code
Dear Audience Name:
Subject: Report on the crisis communication problem revolving around the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe
I have prepared this preliminary report on the communication problems revolving around the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that began on the 20th of April, 2010. The report summarizes the communication challenges that further led to the fueling of the already deplorable situation. In the report, I analyze the different communication challenges that have been experienced by the BP company since the beginning of the catastrophe. I further reflect on ways through which the deplorable state of crisis communication management can be mitigated. Alternatively, I have indicated implementation frameworks which can be engaged to enhance the efficiencies of the crisis communication management.
Thank you for employing me to take a closer look at the Deepwater Horizon communication challenge that needs to be addressed and providing me the opportunity to address it from an informed and enlightened perspective. This study has allowed me to analyze the BP Deepwater Horizon challenge, combining it with additional research pertinent to the situation, and using both to address a very challenging and persistent communication problem.
Should you wish to discuss this project further, please contact me via e-mail at (students email).
This report summarizes the crisis communication challenges that were inspired by the occurrence of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. On 20 June 2010, some methane gas escaped from the storage tanks in the Deep water Horizon oilrig, which is owned by the BP Company. The methane gas was then lighted by an ignition point, which led to the explosion of the oilrig. The explosion led to the deaths of 11 workers and the injuries of several others. The explosion further caused oil leakages that were then released into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The BP Company was severely criticized by the stakeholders based on how they responded to the crisis. The poor response was characterized with inappropriate and insufficient communication frameworks, and this caused a public outcry. In this paper, I examine the crisis communication failures by the BP Company in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. I further recommend, based on my previous research, on the appropriate crisis communication strategies that should have been used by the BP company. Additionally, this paper further determines, based on successive researches, methods through which the identified solutions could have been implemented in the BP Company. The paper concludes by extending several recommendations on ways through which the proposed solutions and implementation process can be reinforced to result in increased efficiencies. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Table of Contents
Summary of the Problem 5
Summary of the Research 6
Proposed Solution 8
Proposed Implementation Plan 9
Works Cited Page 10
Appendix A Table 1 11
Appendix B Table 2 12
Crises in organizational settings are inevitable components. The response that a company or institution extends towards remedying the situation also influences the response of the public to the crisis. In the year 2010, British Petroleum (BP), one of the world’s largest oil drilling companies, triggered one of the worst oil catastrophes to have occurred in the United States of America. On April 20, 2010, the company experienced a breach on its Deepwater Horizon oilrig that led to the release of gasses, which led to successive explosions (Wolf & Merji, 2013). The successive explosions led to the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The collapse of the oilrig led to leakage into the sea, which went up until July 15 of the same year (McMasters, 2015 ). The subsequent explosions led to the disappearance of 11 people and massive loss on the BP company. All of the 11 individuals, before their disappearance, had been workers of the corporation who were situated on the oil rig. The Deepwater Horizon was a floating drilling rig placed in the Gulf of Mexico.
Investigations on the causes of the explosion indicate that BP cost-cutting initiatives were responsible for the accident. There were massive recklessness and a gross negligence given that there were no preparations that had been put in place for such an eventuality. Before the explosion, the oil rig had been drilling oil in a well found deep within the Sea. It had the capacity of drilling oil in waters which went up to 3000m deep (McMasters, 2015). The errors in crisis communication engaged by the company on the explosion and subsequent oil leaks further fueled the already deplorable situation. Initial responses did not reflect on the immensity of the situation. This may have led to the lethargically-inspired response initiatives that were initially engaged. Some of the responses engaged by the company included the use of millions of gallons of dispersants which served to emulsifies the large quantities of oil that had leaked into the Sea. The physical and manual removal of the oil from the Sea was also instituted. Several government agencies participated in the initiative that proved to be a financially costly venture. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Summary of the Problem
The reputation of the BP Company stands to be spoilt because of the Deepwater Horizon oil drill catastrophe. An increased number of agencies, regulatory bodies and individuals are pointing an accusing finger at the management body of the BP company. These individuals demand they be made aware of all the procedures and initiative that have been engaged so far in mitigating the deplorable situation. At this point, British Petroleum risks tarnishing its image. In addition, this will have an effect on the client base and affect the company’s revenue levels. Also, the company risks being subjected to severe financial penalties should it fail to adequately address the public concerns and government regulatory agencies (McMasters, 2015 ). Currently, they are forced to justify every action in which they are engaged. This is to counter the allegations of which it will have to contend from different angles. For the company to succeed on these initiatives, it will need to concentrate on the communication challenges experienced at the time of the accident. The BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe inspired a myriad communication challenges. The communication gaffes served to reinforce the significance of public relation and crisis management communication. Crisis communication comprises an indispensable influence in risk management. Successful crisis communication entails the ability to manage the outrage that may result from the constant information updates which are availed to the public (Seeger, 2006). Likewise, crisis communication management entails the ability to deal with large volumes of information, review the information to enhance the graspability of the technical contents by the public. The BP Company has the role to keep the public and stakeholders up to date with the information relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the subsequent explosion (Seeger, 2006). Based on this, it will face the primary challenge on how to successfully manage the large data quantities on the crisis. This should consider the fact that the data to be used originates from different sources, and that makes it even more complicated. In addition, it also needs to consider the amount of information to share with the public to reduce the outrage.
Crisis communication, a subset of public relations discipline is structured to protect and defend institutions that are at risk of reputation damage from the public or government agencies. It would be significant to note that all crises threaten the image of organizations should the management fail to offer them a proper address. In this case, the directors will constantly be asked for updates. The employees, public, and the relevant government agencies could ask for these updates, and the management will need to comply. Communication, at the advent of the Deepwater Horizon drill, was largely decentralized (Wolf & Merji, 2013). This hampered the flow of information which has resulted in the mass outcry witnessed currently. The public outcry is an indication of the dissatisfaction that the public extends to the responses they have received so far on the progress of the mitigation efforts.
Alternatively, other than the local audience, the company, given its globally pervasive status, is forced to determine ways through which they can communicate to the stakeholders. This should put to consideration that some stakeholders are not based in the United States. Given that there have been demonstrations in countries such as Britain, there is a need for the development of a communication framework that is reflective of the concerns extended by the different stakeholders. The communication framework should be aligned towards consistency, clarity and the truth (Coombs, 2009). At the moment that is challenging given that we had not prepared succinctly for such an eventuality. Therefore, the company is forced to assess every situation as it occurs and then prevails on the best response. This is not only challenging but further results in ambiguity. The need to respond at the moment is greater than the need for clarity given that there is a prevailing need to sustain the reputation.
Summary of the Research
Crisis communication management entails the ability to successfully address the concerns of the public as well as sustain the reputation of the company. An effective crisis communication management strategy is one that is aligned towards pre-preparation. Before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP had been the subject of other environmental catastrophes. For instance, on March 23rd, 2005, a BP oil refinery center in Texas exploded (McMasters, 2015). This resulted in the deaths of 15 individuals and over 170 injured workers. The explosion occurred when the hydrocarbon gases leaked and resulted came in contact with an ignition source. Despite these catastrophes. BP had overlooked the need to prepare a crisis communication strategy that would be engaged in the future. Before the explosion, BP had overlooked the need for the preparation of crisis management communication frameworks which would have been applied in such an event. This led to a series of Gaffes from the prevailing CEO, Tony Hayward. The untimely responses only served to further the public outrage against the spill.
BP lacked an orderly and organized communication approach which prevailed on the individuals who would talk and how the information that is extended to the public would be determined. The CEO’s sentiments projected an abominable lack of empathy for the lives of individuals who had been affected greatly by the catastrophe. This only served to alienate the public further from the company. It further fueled the government agencies hire for the company. In the event of a crisis, it is the duty of the subject company to institute a first and timely response (Falkenheimer & Heide, 2006). This is indicative of the concern with which the company has for the affected third parties. The initial responses that were extended by the BP Crisis management team were incorrect, inaccurate and showed a lack of remorse. They were intended, not to inform the public, but to indicate that the situation was manageable. Through this, the managing hoped that the understatements would serve to pacify the public outrage. Nonetheless, this backfired and acted against the interests of the BP company. Rather than take responsibility and apologize for the leak, the company repeatedly blamed external parties which further projected a sense of carelessness.
Alternatively, to mitigate the already deplorable communication situation, BP committed significant resources towards the resuscitation of their waning popularity. This comprised the next crisis management mistake. Essentially, BP committed to improving their image in the eyes of the stakeholders and the victims through the creation of several websites. The vast public image campaign instituted after the tarnishing of the company’s image was not only belated but also inappropriate and showed a lack of orderliness, which is essential in any crisis communication management framework (Lerbinger, 1997). By June 2010, two months after the incidents and as a way of assuaging public opinion, the company runs a series of advertisements acknowledging responsibility and apologizing for the initial crisis communication blunders. This approach provided a costly venture. The company engaged several newspaper outlets and social sites to explain to the public on the efforts that it was extending towards the mitigation of the oil leak implications. Nonetheless, the company was criticized for committing large sums of money towards improving their image. These funds should have instead been committed to the clean-up efforts and the compensation of the affected victims.
The BP company had also failed to identify and empower a spokesperson. A spokesperson is an individual who is empowered to represent the company and extend internal company information to the public (Wolf & Merji, 2013). The absence of a spokesperson led to the extension of contradictory information from the different workers in the organization. The presence of a spokesperson would have served to centralize the image building processes in the event of a catastrophe such as the Deepwater Horizon oil crisis. A stakeholder, in an organizational setting, speaks on behalf of all the individuals in the company. They are empowered to represent considered and analyzed view of all the members of the corporation. The absence of a spokesperson further jeopardized the BP company’s communication initiatives. The prevailing CEO, Mr. Tony Hayward acted as the company’s spokesperson. However, he was ill-prepared for such a demanding responsibility. He was arrogant in his responses, oblivious of the information that appertained to on-going operations and failed to express remorse for all the damage that the company’s oil leakage had on many of the residents that resided near the Gulf of Mexico (Wolf & Merji, 2013). Consequently, given his blunders, the BP Company sought a new CEO who would be assuming responsibility in October.
The fifth crisis communication management error in the Deepwater Horizon catastrophes manifested itself in the form of the poor stakeholder participation and relationship. Before the catastrophe, BP had established several partnerships with environmental agencies. However, given that the company failed to succinctly inform the agencies of the events that were taking place, these NGOs renegaded on the initial contractual basis that they had with the BP Corporation (Wolf & Merji, 2013). The support of these corporations would have gone a long way into improving the image of the BP company. Given that these organizations were aligned towards the development of the environment, their support would have been innumerable to the BP organization. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Lastly, the research alluded to the failure by the BP company to liaise with media outlets. At the beginning of the crisis, the BP corporation made significant attempts to keep the media away from information that appertained to the leak. The company, with the support of Federal Air Authority, determined to prevent journalists from accessing the site of the explosion. Furthermore, the media houses were threatened with lawsuits by the BP company if they documented the explosion (Wolf & Merji, 2013). Furthermore, BP workers were barred from voicing their opinions in the various media outlets. There were clauses that they signed when they agreed to work for the corporation which greatly limited their ability to communicate to the media. BP’s actions only served to agitate the media who in turn employed the knowledge they had to surmise the prevailing situation. This did not work for BP given that the information forwarded by the media outlets to the public was not always accurate.
With the aim to avoid a repetition of the poor framework engaged by BP, while responding to the Deepwater Horizon, several strategies were proposed. Crisis management comprises one of the most significant sectors in an organizational framework. To overcome the communication management crisis, BP should engage a range of principles. Firstly, there is a need for process approach and policy developments that promote the need for crisis communication (Millar, 2004 ). Essentially, there is also a need for the determination of legal policies in the subject corporation that address the needs for response to crises. This will serve to preempt future recurrences of a similar nature.
Secondly, BP should engage the pre-event planning principle in the organization’s operational dynamics. The company should ensure that they reinforce the convergence of the different stakeholders in the pre-planning event. Pre-event planning entails determining of ways through which communication is conducted should a crisis occur (Seeger, 2006). It addresses the players who will be involved in the communication process. Their capacities should also be defined in the pre-planning phase. This will serve to ease the process of information flow during a crisis. It will further pre-empt occurrences of confusion and overlapping which may result if the roles of the participants are not defined. In the prevailing crisis, the BP company had overlooked the need for pre-planning which only served to curtail the efficiency of the crisis management crisis.
Thirdly, the BP company should reinforce its partnerships with the general public (Seeger, 2006). The relations between a company and the general public influences the degree of public outcry that is manifested in the event of a crisis. Partnerships with the public allow for the determination of ways through which the prevailing crisis can be averted. Furthermore, by partnering with the public, the company will project a greater ability to influence public opinion which can be used to the advantage of the company. The public is more sympathetic, in the event of a crisis, when they are repeatedly engaged in the daily operations of the subject corporation. Alternatively, the BP company should listen to the public concerns and understand their reactions before extending responses (Falkenheimer & Heide, 2006). The public reaction should influence the tone and frequency of communication that is engaged by a company in the event of a crisis. When the public is as agitated as was the case in the prevailing Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the company should engage an apologetic and mild tone. The reinforcement of blamelessness such as was engaged by the prevailing CEO Tom Hayward only serves to alienate the public further from the company.
The need to admit responsibility should override any other need in the event of a crisis. It is thus necessary that BP engages a polite tone in responding to the queries forwarded by the concerned stakeholders. There is also an overriding need to align the company’s responses to the crisis to honesty, candor, and openness. In the initial phases of the crisis communication management initiatives undertaken by the company, the public was extended information that did not reflect the truth on the ground (Wolf & Merji, 2013). These fabrications were based on understatements and were intended to appeal to the public. However, when the general public became aware of the immensity of the situation, they directed even more criticism towards the company. The company should also project courage and optimism when addressing the concerns of the public given the immensity of the crisis. Optimism and courage serve to ensure that the public remains positive, which is pivotal in enhancing the efficiencies of the oil leak containment.
Lastly, there is a need for the company to remain accessible to the media (Seijts, 2004). The media should be updated regularly. They should further be allowed access to the affected areas. This will serve to reinforce the confidence of the stakeholders in the mitigation efforts that are being extended in the crisis. The media acts as a link between the crisis and the general public. Media has a great influence on the public and with increased freedom, can influence the public’s opinion for the company. At the onset of the crisis, media coverage of the Deepwater Horizon was curtailed which triggered the media’s ire which was then transmitted to the public. To pre-empt a repeat of similar circumstances, it is necessary that the BP Company determine ways through which they can allow media more coverage freedom to capture the prevailing crisis (Coombs, 2009). The company can then determine, with the inputs of the media, on ways through which sensitive information can be released without hurting the image of the company.
It is also pivotal that the company accepts uncertainty and ambiguity. Such admissions serve to show to the public that despite the prevailing challenges in the crisis management problems, the company is committed towards the mitigation of the prevailing crises. I engaging the media outlets, the company should engage a compassionate and concerned tone (Seijts, 2004). The tone should display the seriousness with which the company is approaching the crisis and the commitment they have to improve the welfare of all the individuals who have been affected by the crisis. This will serve to reinforce the confidence that the public has on the company.
Proposed Implementation Plan
To implement the aforementioned solutions to the crisis communication management debacle, BP should engage several implementation processes. Firstly, the company needs to establish a crisis communications team (Seeger, 2006). The team should include members who are directly linked to the safety and operational dynamics of the BP company. The team will be tasked with verifying the amount and frequency of information which is extended to the public in the event of a crisis. The team should incorporate diverse individuals who will allow sufficient deliberation and assessment of information before it is released to the public. Within the team, the different members should each be tasked with a specific role. A group should be given the responsibility to collect all the information appertaining to the crisis. The next group should comprise members who are tasked with the duty of verifying the validity of the collected information. Another group in the team should be tasked with the responsibility of engaging with the media. The next implementation process constitutes the identification of the spokespersons (Millar, 2004 ). Essentially, the team needs to identify an individual among them who will represent the entire corporation in the media coverages. This individual will be the face of the corporation during a crisis.
The next implementation phase entails the training of the identified spokesperson. The individuals will need to be introduced to the principles of PR and at the end of their training, should be able to apply the knowledge garnered to further the crisis management initiatives of the BP company (Seeger, 2006). To begin with, the spokesperson should be trained on the basic operations are engaged in the BP company. They should be made aware of the risks that can result from each specific operation. They should be imparted with the knowledge on ways through which each crisis will influence their responses to the public.
The spokespersons should be imparted with the skills that are necessary for addressing issues that relate to the BP without implicating a specific party. They should reinforce collective acknowledgment of blame. They should further ensure that their responses do not jeopardize the company initiatives. The fourth implementation process entails the establishment of notification systems. These constitutes the determination of ways and frequency through which information will be released to the public and stakeholders who are affected by the crisis. There is a need for the development of an aligned strategy that will be engaged in extending information to the respective parties (Lerbinger, 1997). The framework ought to indicate the direction of the flow of communication. It should also address the frequency by which the information is released to the public. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Before the extension of any information in crisis communication management, there is need to determine who the stakeholders are and their inputs in the BP company. Identification of the stakeholders eases the process of information analysis before it is released. For instance, when the stakeholders are the general public, the communication should be structured in such a way that it can be understood. The public will not readily understand the technical terms that form an intrinsic part of the oil drilling industry. Consequently, there is a need to ensure that the information released avoids unnecessary technical jargon as this will only serve to alienate the public further (Wolf & Merji, 2013). The company should further anticipate crises before they happen. This will allow more time to prepare for such an eventuality. Preparation mitigates the confusion that often arises from crises. With enough preparation, the communication demands will be approached objectively and reflect the sanity of the BP company in the event of a crisis.
Preparation should then pave the way for the assessment of the crisis. Adequate preparation mitigates time wastage and addresses the resources needed in the crisis management initiatives. The assessment of the crisis should follow a regular order which was addressed in the preparation process. Assessment allows for the determination of accurate information on the prevailing crisis (Millar, 2004 ). Assessment will further allow for the determination of key messages. The key messages will curtail the possibilities of extending irrelevant information to the public. Information which does not appertain to the crisis constitutes an irrelevant component. Lastly, there is need to prepare all the employees psychologically for crisis eventualities which will serve to pre-empt situations where they approach the wrong authorities to extend communication which may negatively affect the BP company. Training the overall employees on crisis management encourages to engage the appropriate authorities in the event of a crisis which enhances the efficiencies of the assessment of the crisis by the BP company.
This project serves to reinforce the significance of communication in an organizational setting. Crisis communication management constitutes one of the most significant fabrics in the overall administration of an organization. Crises are inevitable irrespective of the crisis pre-emption strategies engaged by the different organizations. Consequently, it is necessary for big companies, such as BP, to develop a crisis communication response team. The team should be tasked with the duty of determining the communication strategies in the event of a crisis. To enhance the efficiency of the proposed solutions and the implementation processes, the company should dedicate substantial funds to the initiative to reinforce the actualization of the proposed solutions. Furthermore, the BP company should ensure that they involve all the stakeholders in the implementation of the proposed solutions to ensure the needs of each stakeholder is addressed. This will serve to enhance the efficiency of the crisis communication management.
Coombs, W. (2009). Conceptualizing Crisis Communication. In R. Heath, & H. D. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of crisis and risk communication (pp. 100-119). New York: Routledge.
Falkenheimer, J., & Heide, M. (2006). Multicultural crisis communication: Towards a social constructionist perspective. J. Contingencies and Crisis Management, 14(4), 180-189.
Lerbinger, O. (1997). The Crisis Manager: Facing Risk and Responsibility. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
McMasters, M. (2015, May 31). BP Deepwater Horizon Crisis – A Case Study. Retrieved from Linked In:
Millar, D. P. (2004 ). Exposing the errors: An examination of the nature of organizational crises. In D. P. Millar, & R. L. Heath, Responding to Crisis: A Rhetorical Approach to Crisis Communication (pp. 19-31). NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Seeger, M. W. (2006). Best practices in crisis communication: An expert panel process. J. Applied Communication Research, 34(3), 232-244.
Seijts, G. H. (2004). Walking on water or sinking without a trace? Six behaviors that describe strong crisis leaders. Ivey Business Journal, 69(2), 1-6.
Wolf, D. D., & Merji, M. (2013). Crisis communication failures: The BP Case Study. International Journal of Advances in Management and Economics, 2(2), 49-56.