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A case study on crises communications

Nov 22nd 2012, 08:26

A case study on crises communications

By Janine Lloyd, Strategic Relations Consultant

There are multiple lessons that brands can take from corporates, even those operating in other industries, when putting their own crisis communication strategy in place. Janine Lloyd elaborates using an oil conglomerate as a practical example.

If we look at one of the world’s biggest crises – the Gulf oil spill of 2010 involving one of the largest oil companies - there is a lot we can learn about the practice of crises communications. After researching various facts and opinions on the crises, I have pulled out relevant lessons we can learn from and apply in our own organisations.

Lesson 1: Have a crises plan in place. The drilling was high risk – firstly where they were drilling and secondly using high risk techniques. The company either didn’t have a strategy in place should something go wrong, or they had an inefficient crises plan which landed them in deep water.

Lesson 2: Operational mishaps are likely to cause the biggest disasters
. In this case a White House commission found that the oil company and its partners were at fault for making a series of cost-cutting decisions and the lack of a system to ensure well safety. Companies need to understand that putting profit before safety is a bad decision.

Lesson 3: Don’t be stubborn. The oil giant underestimated the size of the spill and refused to listen to experts. I can only surmise that they made the original estimate without expert analysis and then made their next error by sticking to their original story despite contrary evidence. Remember at the initial phase of a crises gathering supporting evidence from outside experts is critical, especially with a disaster of this magnitude. Providing honest, credible and accurate information protects your reputation.

Lesson 4: Never downplay the impact. An executive of the oil company stated that he doubted the spill would have much of an impact on the environment. It is now known that the spill caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries.

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