BP’s Next Challenge

The slow motion disaster that is unfortunately continuing to take shape in the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly become a significant case history in the fields of public relations, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and crisis management.

While British Petroleum has certainly been the victim of a worst-case scenario, they have also been woefully unprepared for a disaster that is obviously within the realm of possibility.  Good crisis planning could have probably predicted the current event and hopefully prodded some preparation to deal with it.

But from a PR perspective, BP has done a good job of accepting responsibility, admitting mistakes, being transparent about what is going on and I suppose when this is over, doing what is necessary to make sure it never happens again.  What is yet to be determined is how much BP is willing or able to make the innocent victims of the disaster whole.

The Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska showed the massive resources, both financial and in human capital, that are required to right a wrong of this magnitude.  And as the oil slick in the Gulf continues to grow and more communities are affected, the job just becomes bigger.  While the fragile eco-system of Prince William Sound is still recovering from the effects of its disaster, it is relatively sparsely populated compared to the communities of the Gulf of Mexico.  Cleaning up the oil and working to restore both the environment and the confidence of an angry public will be a massive undertaking.

Once the flow of oil is stopped, the real work will begin.  Let’s hope that BP is prepared.

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Filed under corporate social responsibility, Crisis Communications, CSR, Daniel Durazo, PR, Public Relations

Lessons from Toyota

Today’s congressional hearings on T0yota’s safety problems and a recent mini-crisis at work have prompted me to focus on the long held rules of crisis communications.  If you read today’s coverage of the congressional hearings and what Toyota is doing about its unintended acceleration problem, you can see how these rules come into play.

Rule One: Show you care.  Demonstrating that you are concerned about the issue shows that you are a responsible corporate citizen.  Saying that you are concerned is great, but showing you are concerned is better.

Rule Two: Take action.  The best way to show you are concerned is to take action to address the problem.  This should be done as quickly as possible.

Rule Three:  Admit mistakes and apologize for them.  Toyota has done this today and it is an extremely effective tactic.  Everyone knows that we all make mistakes and we are very forgiving if we believe the errors were unintentional.  Americans love anyone who is willing to fall on their sword.

Rule Four:  Take steps to make sure this horrible thing never happens again.  Now this is easier said than done, but if you do steps one through three correctly, most folks will take you at your word for step four.  Now just make sure it never does happen again or you’ll really be in trouble.

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Filed under Daniel Durazo, PR