BP’s Oil Spill Reputation Catastrophe

22 08 2010

Throughout the history of mankind, whoever thought that oil and gas would be such a necessity to the way we live today? It has brought numerous of both good and bad to our environment and civilization. It has provided us the comfort of going from one place to the other, without a drop of sweat. It has given us the ability to advance into today’s state-of-the-art technology. And as a result, the benefits of such resource have caused many staggering consequences to mother nature, such as the increase in greenhouse gases and other catastrophic mishaps. Nevertheless, the world still depends on it, since it’s one of the most efficient energy source.
About the organization
Let’s move along. Today’s post is basically about one particular oil company called British Petroleum (BP). It’s one of the many oil companies who make hundreds of billions every year. BP is one of the world’s largest energy companies, providing its customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, retail services and petrochemicals products for everyday items (BP, 2010).
Unfortunately, on April the 20th 2010, a disastrous event occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. One of BP’s offshore rigs exploded (Yes, you guessed it right!) and gusted out a thick smoke that was unbearable to watch. Soon after the blazing fire, the oil rig sunk beneath the sea and started spewing crude oil at the rate of about 1,300,000 litres per day (Wikipedia, 2010). Many animals are now in danger and people around the Gulf area are suffering the consequences. Click here to view pictures of the oil slick on the water’s surface.
Coast Guards Battling Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Fire[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qbB-Ga0rh8]
After the incident, BP suffered a lot from the media. They were bombarded with questions as to how and why the disaster happened. Several investigations were administered to find out the real story behind the incident (Jones, 2010). To make matters worse, BP has received numerous amounts of lawsuits and is believed to be one of the most expensive legal battles in history (BP Lawsuit, 2010).
Social media disaster
Already, BP’s oil spill accident was a catastrophe to their reputation. However, it didn’t just stop there. BP’s nightmare was getting worse by the second and it was a top story that escalated dramatically on the internet. The social media was bombarded with BP’s oil spill issues. So much so, that the company was being discriminated and insulted in so many ways.
Search for BP on Facebook and you’re more likely to find “Boycott BP” pages, one of which has more than 850,000 people liking the page, rather than BP’s official site. And on Twitter, a phony BP account that makes fun of the company has more than 191,000 followers, while the official BP Twitter account has less than 19,000 (Gaudin, 2010).
Below are some of the video examples on Youtube that defames BP’s reputation:
Robert Redford calls for Clean Energy Now. Watch Now
BP – Bringing People Together. Watch Now
BP’s Mike Williams was one of the chief electronic technicians and one of the last survivors who escaped the burning inferno. In this video he explains his experience of what really happened. Watch Now
Mitigations to minimize reputation risk
BP should have started a social networking campaign way before the accident occurred. They could have used social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to update the public about the oil spill and how they would overcome the problem. Instead, BP missed that opportunity by not implementing such tools earlier. This would definitely be a way for the public to stay updated with BP’s efforts in the Gulf (Buskirk, 2010).

  • British Petroleum (BP). 2010. BP Global
  • Buskirk, E. V. 2010. BP’s Social Media Campaign Going about as well as Capping That Well
  • BP Lawsuit. 2010. Over 200 BP Lawsuits Filed So Far in Federal Court
  • Gaudin, S. 2010. BP, In Crisis Mode, Misses Social Networking Target
  • Jones, K. 2010. Independent Safety Investigation into BP’s Gulf Disaster Requested By Congress
  • Wikipedia. 2010. Deepwater Horizon Explosion
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    5 responses

    26 08 2010

    I think your opinion that BP should have established a social media presence long before the accident was quite perceptive – if people had had some sort of history and connection with the company, they might have felt some sort of loyalty that could have worked against the outrage and anger that so quickly turned people against it. This would also have meant they’d be set up to respond quickly and directly to the public, which could have helped to portray them as approachable and responsible for swiftly addressing the problem and being open about it. Interesting choice of topic and handling of it!

    30 08 2010

    Thanks for your comment Jrsketcher. BP should have taken social media to their advantage in an earlier stage, way before the incident. They would have definitely had more followers on Facebook and Twitter if they had done so, thus allowing them to communicate with the public. It’s difficult to regain such reputation after going through such disaster. I only hope the best for BP and that other oil companies should better prepare for unforeseen disasters.

    4 09 2010

    Intriguing blog post! What do you think the benefits and dis-benefits be for medias to investigate their current situation problem? Would they be any major risks for medias? If yes, could you justify their reasoning? 🙂

    8 09 2010

    Well, in my opinion, there are good and bad sides of being in the press. They will definitely be able to get the exposure of keeping the public informed on their current situation. Some of which could be solutions to the oil spill, such as, cleaning procedures, public assistance, animal recovery and more. However, despite the free exposure, the media isn’t always the most optimistic way of delivering the message out to the public as it tends to lean towards a prejudice perspective. That said, BP does not have any control whatsoever over what goes on the media! Just imagine the amount of controversies and rumors going on out there! This was probably one of the main reasons why they recently leveraged the use of social media to communicate with the public. And as a consequent of not implementing it earlier, they are now facing a difficult time attracting social media followers due to their reputation adversity. Oh dear, how unfortunate of BP to go through such disaster. Let’s observe how they would redeem themselves.

    4 09 2010

    Nearly had a heart attack when I saw that we had used the same subject material – someone had beaten me to the punch! Lucky for me that my own poor scratchings had a second half.

    It’s quite strange to hear the talk surrounding the prospect of BP folding. What with the massive share price dip, rolling boycotts and a petulant CEO whining about cash flow problems you’d be forgiven for thinking that poor little British Petroleum was the victim here.

    And a small correction – BP America has had a Twitter account since March last year. The inaugural post is about pizza, apparently.

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