PR plays a vital part in maintaining a company’s image, however this cannot be done correctly creating a damaging effect on how the company looks in the public eye, this can even happen to large international companies, in this case BP. This blog will cover what happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, and how their bad PR skills has led to have a lasting effect on their brand image.
Who are BP?
BP are a worldwide integrated energy business which operates across 79 countries, employing over 70,000 people. A large amount of their profits come from non-renewable energy sources such as oil coal and gas, all of which have a very harmful impact on the environment when mined in large quantities. BP operate on various oil rigs across the globe, sucking out 3.8 million barrels of oil from the ground on a daily basis, contributing towards its $278 million gross sales. However, on the 20th April 2010 BP proved to the world how much of a devastating effect their work can potentially have on the planet for hundreds or even thousands of years to come.
On the 20th April 2010, a BP Deepwater Horizon rig (Macondo oil well) began to leak millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, eventually causing the above water platform to catch fire, killing a total of 11 people in what is said to be one of the worst oil spills in history, leaking an average of 60,000 barrels of oil a day at the incidents peak. The well took a total of 3 months to slow the flow of oil, then an additional two months to permanently seal the damage, resulting in a total of 5.4 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulfs open waters between the start of the incident and the first point of action. it was later discovered that the root of this problem was brought down to a lack of management, the wells parent company, Transocean soon released a statement claiming that BP were in charge of all operations and procedures on the offshore rig at the time of the incident, leading many fingers pointing towards the multi-national company. In reply to this, the energy giants released a statement themselves blaming the matter on the faults of other companies working on the rig, this was the start of their PR disaster.
As well as damaging BP’s reputation, this was also the start of years of damage towards the ocean and its amphibious life, a growing concern for the environment.
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How has this incident affected BP’s image?
Within an hour of the explosion on the Macondo oil well, Glenn DaGian (BP government affairs director) contacted the company after retiring, to offer his help. Unfortunately, BP rejected his offer, which lead to the further damage of their brand image. After the rejection of his offer, BP executive went on to declare that this major incident was not their fault, blaming the hard-working contractors for the death of 11 people and mass environmental damage, giving the company an arrogant persona, “The company’s response has become a textbook example of how not to do crisis management”- DaGian. One of the reasons for BP’s huge PR disaster is due to the BP CEO Tony Hayward (who also cut the companies Public Relations and Government Relations departments) was forced to face the press due to these cuts which lead to various insensitive comments during interviews such as “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back” showing how self-centred the CEO was towards this matter. After this insensitive statement, BP knew that they were backed into a corner by the public eye, with other BP officials refusing to further comment on this issue, it became clear that BP did not have a basic PR strategy, failing to communicate the three main messages that would help to rectify the irreparable damage that the company had already done; they were accountable for the disaster, they were deeply concerned about what it would do to the environment and that they had a plan on what they needed to do to fix this. Evidently, they did not.
What has BP done to repair?
Since this damaging incident, BP have been working hard to help repair their brand image from that damages the environment, to one that is doing all they can to create a green future. One of the ways that they have been doing this is through their “net zero” pledge, which promises that the company will produce zero emissions by the year 2050, showing the company is now environmentally aware. Additionally, BP have also adopted a brand-new business structure, recruiting a brand-new leadership team, showing that the company is prepared to adapt for its future plans.
Since the incident has happened, it is evident that BP has worked to repair their brand image through creating changes in their company and its beliefs, however maybe BP are failing to see what damage the rig leak is currently doing. Instead of planning for the future (which is a good idea), maybe the energy giants should also focus on how they can improve today’s environment as well?