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Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010, near New Orleans, Louisiana.
[CBS: US Coast Guard via Getty Images]
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010 off the coast of Louisiana, and the ensuing oil spill caused substantial economic and environmental damage to states on the U.S. Gulf Coast. British Petroleum received strong public criticism for its role in the disaster and quickly attempted image repair strategies. These strategies centered on describing what they were doing to correct the problem and compensate the victims, but did not include strategies such as shifting the blame to the other companies involved nor admitting their own blame. This study applies Benoit's work in Image Repair to a content analysis of the press releases from British Petroleum in the initial aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. We also note the difficulty of using this theory to capture the nuances of responses.
This study aims to analyze what kinds of frames have been used in British Petroleum's (BP's) press releases, which dealt with the Gulf oil spill crisis that occurred in April 2010. A content analysis was conducted to explore the different frames used by BP in its press releases to deal with the crisis. The main and sub themes are also analyzed through a content analysis of press releases. This study attempts to examine BP's crisis communication strategy through press release usage by closely analyzing the frames and themes that were used. This study found that BP attempted to update the public on what the company was doing to resolve the oil spill crisis, and that they made every effort to manage the crisis by using the company's official update frame. In addition, by using the social responsibility frame, BP aimed to show the public that they had intentions of taking responsibility for the oil spill. Finally, BP used a minimal number of defensive frames as a way of showing the public that they did not want to flee from the responsibility of the oil spill crisis.
Purpose - Every unexpected and sudden event (crisis) operates as a threat for an organization's reputation. British Petroleum (BP) came face to face with a crisis on 20 April 2010 when an explosion in the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig caused a huge oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. The present case study aims to describe BP's serious communication mistakes with its stakeholders managing a serious hit to BP's reputation. Design/methodology/approach - The present case study attempts to provide a detailed outline of BP's communication failures by conducting in-depth investigation of secondary data (newspapers, audiovisual material, social network sites). Findings - BP's crisis communication was a weak link in its crisis management strategy. The lessons to learn are various, both for practitioners and researchers. Practitioners should learn from the leadership, culture and public relations (PR) mistakes made by BP and avoid them in a crisis of their organisation. They should select those strategies that foster their organization's strengths and correct its weaknesses in order to take advantage of external opportunities and counter external threats. Originality/value - This study could be a valuable asset in communication literature, since BP's PR strategies during this oil spill have not been studied extensively. The communications solutions BP took during the crisis were examined and certain strategies BP should have followed in order to avoid its failed PR plan are suggested, which can help both practitioners and researchers to learn from BP's mistakes and give more attention to communication strategies, which are of critical essence to all crises.
This Article examines the conduct of BP executives in the weeks following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to illuminate the use of apology by organizations. After briefly describing the value of apology and its nuances from an evolutionary perspective, the Article describes how apology and other responsibility-accepting behaviors can be mobilized by organizations to avoid the costs of its apparently careless conduct. In particular, organizations can designate particular agents as spokespersons who possess the ability to portray a sense of sincerity and regret. Moreover, reconciliation by ingroup members appears to be more common than is reconciliation by outgroup members, likely because the value of a future relationship is higher for ingroup members. In response to an event that harm others, an organization should designate spokespersons that resemble the victims and the victims' allies as much as possible. BP executives did a good job of responding promptly, accepting responsibility, pledging to repair the harm, and, at least initially, credibly conveying regret. However, BP's CEO eventually expressed weariness for the role of transgressor, an act that exacerbated the firm's public relations problems. The fact that BP executives were from other nations and were clearly members of a different social class from most of the victims tainted public perceptions of the executives' comments. BP's public relations blunders suggest a need for further study of the effect of ingroup/outgroup perceptions on the impact of apology and subsequent liabilities.
Schultz, Friederike, Jan Kleinnijenhuis, Dirk Oegema, Sonja Utz, and Wouter van Atteveldt. "Strategic Framing in the BP Crisis: A Semantic Network Analysis of Associative Frames." Public Relations Review 38, no. 1 (03, 2012): 97.
This paper contributes to the analysis of the interplay of public relations and news in crisis situations, and the conceptualization of strategic framing by introducing the idea of associative frames and the method of semantic network analysis to the PR research field. By building on a more advanced understanding of communication as process of social meaning construction that is embedded in networks of differential relations between different actors, it contributes to extend the perspective of first- and second-order agenda building towards a kind of “third order” or “network agenda building”. Via an automated content analysis of more than 3700 articles we examine agenda- and frame-differences between public relations, UK and US news in the BP crisis. The study documents that BP successfully applied a decoupling strategy: It dissociated itself from being responsible for the cause and at the same time presented itself as solvent of the crisis. It shows that in crises, associative frames in PR resonate partly to associative frames in news. Especially the US news followed BP and did not succeed in presenting political actors as solution providers.