Last week we brought you some do’s and don’ts of public relations and we confessed that Integrate’s president Allie Danzinger LOVES crisis mitigation and communication. So in honor of Allie’s passion for overcoming crisis, we thought today we’d look at a case study of crisis management.
With the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf, there is still a lot to be learned from the practitioners who tried to mitigate the situation. The major downfall of this company and its effort to keep face in light of the situation was transparency.
When a situation is bad, the best move is one of honesty. Be open about the crisis as soon as possible and keep the public informed on the steps you are taking to mitigate the situation.
If you keep your publics in the dark, eventually you may be forced to backtrack and this can cost you your credibility. The public can forgive you for mistakes much easier when you keep them informed, than when they find out they were intentionally misinformed.
It was also leaked exactly just how much BP was paying its crisis team, a figure the public did not take kindly to. Many people felt the amount of money being spent on the public relations would be better devoted to clean-up efforts.
This information paired with traditional PR efforts such as management of negative search results on search engines like Google, backfired. The primary results coming out of searches like these focused a lot on who was responsible for the explosion, or the financial effects of the spill. This led publics to accuse BP of ‘buying’ Google search results and thus casting blame elsewhere.
They also did not agree on the voice and message of their company. While PR practitioners worked tirelessly to position the company in the best light, months after the incident the BP CEO was quoted as saying he wanted the disaster to be mitigated because he wanted his life back. Covering your bases and making sure everyone is on the same page, especially iconic figures like executives, is key for a successful rebound from a crisis.
You have probably all hear Warren Buffet’s famous saying, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” For anyone in the industry, you know how true these words ring. That is why it is important to act swiftly and honestly. Calling a disaster “a relatively tiny” spill compared to “the very big ocean” is not going to maintain your company’s credibility. We here at Integrate firmly believe in a plan of action. Developing a basic adaptable plan around the ideas of transparency and immediacy can go a long way to helping future crisis management!