June 25th, 2010
The many forms of communication are often discussed in terms of how they can develop and generate opportunities. Little is said however of its uses when everything is going wrong and the only coverage you are getting is negative. Why is this?
When it is, it is often spoke of as being better than none at all. As Oscar Wilde once said “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” What is meant by this is If you can ride the difficulties there is the opportunity to emerge with your rise drawing substantial attention and interest which, accompanied by that already generated by the negative coverage, can lead to further success.
How accurate though is such an assumption? Is it better to be discussed in any light than not at all or is it simply good fortune that brings future accomplishments after an unfavourable spotlight?
Media coverage of BP’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can hardly be described as promotional. Huge financial costs and a drop in confidence has seen share prices plummet. The terrible loss of life in the initial disaster and features showing the effect on iconic, helpless wildlife has even led to BP Chief Executive Tony Haywood being labelled as the most hated man in the USA.
BP’s response has been to document its attempts to rectify the leak but this has been somewhat undermined by its failure to do so and the emergence of details accounting the accident to BP negligence. Its most recent attempt to null the criticisms has been to allow journalists access to the company’s crisis centre. Although showing it is working hard to fix the leak it has not come early enough and its effect will be limited amongst the allegations of cost cutting influences.
The severity and length of the problems means there is very little for BP to attain from the situation unlike suggested by assumptions valuing all communication. It is hard not to speculate though that had the leak been swiftly stopped, it would have drawn valuable public and business interest despite the severity.
Presentation of BP as being a company which valued and put procedures in place to ensure and reflect its social responsibilities rather than being driven solely by profit margins at any cost, as commonly thought of the oil industry, would have recovered some of the reputation lost by the initial disaster if it had been done in the early stages. This could have prevented them being dragged through what can be described as a lengthy, hostile media portrayal.
With its communication of attempted solutions being out weighted, BP’s recovery will be reliant on its previously strong identity. The extent to which its identity and reputation can be recovered however remains to be seen.