Google Images

The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most notable news stories thus far in the 21st century. During the months of April-June of 2010, BP was responsible for an oil spill that dumped mass amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reeking havoc on the marine and wildlife habitats, as well as causing extensive damage to the fishing and tourism industries in the Gulf. It was the largest oil spill in history, and was covered extensively in the media. BP took some major hits from the media, and was blamed (rightfully so) for the incident.

Looking back on the coverage of the oil spill, much of what happened can be linked to many of the things we discussed this semester in COMM 306. This incident was the first thing that came to my mind when I read Chapter 4 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” that discussed public opinion. I don’t know if there’s ever been a company that took as big of a hit in the public eye following a mistake than BP did. After it came to light that BP was responsible for the spill, people were boycotting the company and there were hundreds of reports noting BP’s lack of safety precautions and discussion of how easily the spill could have been avoided. The negative downturn that the company took in the public eye, was exponentially increased when BP CEO, Tony Hayward, began clearly trying to downplay BP’s fault in the spill.

BP’s and Tony Hayward’s reactions and statements following the oil spill were again the first thing that came to my mind after reading Chapter 19 in the textbook, which goes over crisis communication. The oil spill for BP was a monumental crisis within the organization, and the way the company handled the reverberations is a perfect example of what not to do following a crisis. BP did everything they could to cover up for themselves, avoid blame, and twist the truth. Tony Hayward would have been much better off by coming out and saying that unfortunately BP was at fault, they feel terrible about what happened, and that they would try to do everything in their power to fix the huge mistake that they had made.