The oil well explosion on the BP operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the gulf of Mexico on 20 April, 2010 killed eleven crew members and begun the largest environmental disaster in American History to date. With over 1,050,000 US gallons of oil being discharged from the well each day the area’s marine life is in great danger with 355 sea turtles and 43 dolphins already found dead within the spill area at the time of writing this (Ifitwasmyhome.com).
BP’s first reaction to the spill was to try to escape the blame by publicly blaming the outsourced oil drillers.
1. The first thing any PR professional would and should advise a company to do in light of a crisis such as this (which will devastate agricultural, oceanic, and wildlife systems, killing millions of marine and land animals in the process) is to accept responsibility. Regardless of who was at fault for your oil spilling, you are the overseeing company who is responsible for the oil when profits are being made; that makes you responsible when a crisis occurs, as well.
2. The next thing that good PR pro would advise is to apologize. Putting aside the actual cause for the crisis, apologize because you were involved. Guess who the public is going to remember when they talk about this spill in 20 years, like the Exxon spill, who’s repercussions are still being felt? BP’s. The name of the drillers whose machinery failed will not be remembered. The media, bloggers, and the public are already responding and nothing is being said that references the drillers; BP’s name is the only one being used.
3. Be genuine about your apology as well, because, believe or not, regardless of the general public’s lack of understanding of what’s actually going on (because they are ill-informed), they can tell if you’re being sincere or not.
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