The Deepwater Horizon accident released an estimated 4.1 million barrels worth of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico during an 87 day period, making it the worst oil spill and environmental disaster the petroleum industry has seen (BP leak, 2013). Needless to say, the BP public relations team had a massive job of getting their company back into good standing as soon as possible. It’s no easy job getting an oil company that prided itself on being “beyond Petroleum” and environmentally friendly back on the right track after a colossal oil spill.
The PR team at BP had more than a few missteps on their way to try and clear their reputation. One big issue that they faced regarded whose responsibility it was. BP emphasized that the oil rig belonged to Transocean LTD (Beam, 2010). BP then put out a series of advertisements apologizing for the spill, promising compensation, and ensuring that full responsibility was to be taken by the company in question.
It was later revealed how much that BP spent on their image bolstering campaign. According to the Huffington Post, BP spent a whopping 100 million during the first four months of the spill alone. (“BP Oil Spill”, 2013). The campaign primarily consisted of a series of nationwide TV commercials featuring CEO Tony Hayward. The campaign was seen as a miss by the general public.
Over the past year or two, BP has been stabilizing in terms of stock value, which demonstrates shareholder confidence and public market opinion. After the Deepwater Horizon accident, BP stock went down from trading at around fifty six dollars a share to twenty nine dollars a share, almost diminishing its value in half. As of this month it is trading around forty dollars a share; a steep increase compared to twenty nine dollars a share (CNN Money, BP PLC). However, Emily Swanson from Huffington Post report shares statistics that paint a much darker picture. According to a survey given in April 2013, Forty three percent of those surveyed still have a negative perception of BP oil, and forty one percent of Americans surveyed felt like BP did not do a sufficient job cleaning up the goal (Swanson, 2013).
At this point in time, I feel that it is time for BP to take a step back from the situation and asses where they stand in the public’s opinion on a regional level. Although it is clear many Americans are still unhappy about the spill three years later, the advertising and PR campaign should be more focused. At their first go, the company seemed to take a “shotgun approach” to the incident by spraying advertisements all over the nation with hopes that a few ads would hit the mark. Now, I feel that it is time for them to take more precise measures with their campaign in order to save money and reputation. For instance, an ad campaign that was displayed in areas of America unaffected by the spill would only remind people of the oil spill, and do little for public image. An ad campaign in the south/Gulf area may have more of an effect. These people are constantly reminded of the spills damage because it hit closer to home. A reputation campaign involving the full extent of the PR budget may maximize potential. TV ads, interviews, events, and cleanup efforts could be turned into full gear and broadcasted on an anniversary on the spill, then subsided to a maintainable level until the issue is manageable.
BP leak the world’s worst accidental oil spill. (2010, August 03). The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7924009/BP-leak-the-worlds-worst-accidental-oil-spill.html
Beam, C. (2010, May 05). Oil slick: How bp is handling its p.r. disaster. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2010/05/oil_slick.html
BP oil spill advertisements since the Deepwater horizon disaster three years ago. (2013, April 19). Huffington Post
CNN Money. (Designer). (2013, September 25). BC PLC [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/quote/quote.html?symb=BP
Swanson, E. (2013, April 20). Poll finds bp public image still tarnished 3 years after gulf spill. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/20/bp-poll_n_3111551.html