It is no secret what the latest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has done to the image of the oil giant BP™. It is easy to double guess the strategy of their choice; but it is no less difficult to contemplate alternative strategies or implementations.
The concept of abstract public relations has been dead for a long time. The evolution of internet, Web 2.0, and social media have certainly not made the process of PR any easier. The proponents of those technical and social developments may argue that additional new channels that are created via those advancements have enabled the players to have a bigger “club” to drive their point home. The opponents may argue that the mere additional of new communication channels contributes to the ever increasing levels of difficulties in managing a public relation crisis.
In any case; it is hardly a surprise that the named entity has been criticized. On one hand; it failed to anticipate and deploy PR units quickly enough – on the other hand; the PR efforts were meager at best.
Could they have done things differently – yes. Should they have? Probably not and here is why: the scope and magnitude of the disaster was not known to the public; but it is reasonably safe to assume that the specialists within the entity had a decent idea of what was about to unfold. Let’s not kid ourselves; it is a large organization with a tremendous amount of human capital and expertise.
So if they knew how bad it is going to get; should they have intensified their PR efforts? Probably not because they could have anticipated the potential backlash by calculating the scope of the environmental impact. Hence concluding that the impact of criticism will be semi proportional to the scope of the disaster. No amount of PR was / is going to fix that – must have been their conclusion.
Of course we may be wrong. Maybe it was just sheer panic, miscommunication, lack of leadership, or simple incompetence. Yet judging by the fact that even after the scope of the disaster became more and more public, it choose to continue limited PR efforts. Leading to the conclusion that its approach to PR is by design.
Though the above deductive reasoning is not scientific rather than qualitative; it is logical and convincing. It is logically sound to assume that the leadership of that entity decided that silence is golden – both in terms of PR and potential legal liabilities.
So what is the lesson for PR folks? Simple: more is not always better. Of course it remains to be seen if it holds true in the BP case; but it appears that in spite of all the buzz BP has managed to effectively win publics’ desire for BP to lead the efforts.
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