Crisis Analysis: BP Oil Spill

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

Beam, C. (2010, May 05). Oil slick: How bp is handling its p.r. disaster. Slate. Retrieved from

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

Swanson, E. (2013, April 20). Poll finds bp public image still tarnished 3 years after gulf spill. Huffington Post. Retrieved from


Technology and ArtPrize

Every fall, The City of Grand Rapids hosts an art gallery at an incredible scale.  This event, known as ArtPrize, is made up of hundreds of artists displaying their works throughout the city.  The event is promoted through various local news stations, some of which offer coverage during every news hour and even have stations surrounded by exhibitions.  To give you an idea of how large this event is, 37,500 votes were cast electronically for exhibitions within the first twenty four hours, and as of 3pm on September 25th, almost 250,000 votes had been submitted (ArtPrize Grand Rapids).

This year there is an interesting and new technological dynamic of ArtPrize that hasn’t been utilized before.  A new app called Epic Events that, “automatically stitches together short video clips to create “epic” videos of life moments and events,” Is new on the market for ArtPrize 2013 (Kaczmarczyk, 2013).  This app is intended to showcase bits and pieces of ArtPrize and promote the event as a whole.

However, there were very little opportunities for guests to promote individual pieces of artwork through the means of social networking.  When I visited ArtPrize on opening day this past Wednesday, all of the exhibitions I viewed did not have any pre-established FourSquare check ins.  There was a general ‘ArtPrize’ check in that was set up, and even trending for that matter, but no individual pieces.  As I continued to see incredible pieces of art that individuals had dedicated a large portion of their lives creating, I couldn’t help but think that the artists weren’t fully promoting their efforts in the most effective ways.  If I was in their position, I would utilize every social media outlet that I could in order to promote my artwork in order to increase voter/viewer turnout.  For instance, if artists had established FourSquare check ins prior to the event happening, they would have been able to establish themselves quicker on Foursquare and maybe even get the location of their piece to trend in Grand Rapids, which would surely help generate viewers and votes for the artists.  Not all of the exhibits lacked a social media presence, however.  Two of the art pieces that I looked at offered flyers with a ‘like’ page on Facebook, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

So, after observing all of this I was curious as to why there artists did not seem to utilize social media outlets to the fullest extent.  Being a Public Relations major myself, I like analyzing campaigns and seeing the means in which companies, nonprofits, and other public/consumer driven organizations utilize in order to maximize their potential publicity or sales.  After doing some research and reading excerpts from Ariel Hyatt’s book Cyber PR for Musicians: Tools, Tricks, And Tactics For Building Your Social Media House, I came to a conclusion.  Hyatt speaks about a sort of stigma that lies rooted within the art and music community regarding social media.  This stigma ranges from artists feeling that they “don’t want to be pushy or over-hype-y,” to artists that feel social media is a “waste of time” and there is “no return on investment (Hyatt, 2012).  However, artists must take full advantage of modern technological assets such as social media outlets in order to garner public votes and potentially win the cash prize at the end.  Hyatt discusses potential ways for artists to remove that stigma by providing evidence that yes; promoting yourself via social media may seem conceited and make you feel uncomfortable, it is a great way to be a step ahead of the competition (Hyatt, 2012).


ArtPrize Grand Rapids. (n.d.).

Kaczmarczyk, J. (2013, September 22). Check out epic videos of ArtPrize, thanks to new epic events app. MLive

Hyatt, A. (2012). Cyber pr for musicians: Tools, tricks, and tactics for building your social media house. (2 ed.). Brooklyn : Huntercat Press. Retrieved from hyatt

Evaluation in Public Relations

Obviously, evaluation is a very important step in the public relations process.  Evaluating a campaign essentially deems whether or not it was successful or not. states that, “A professional analysis of the PR campaign also helps spot weaknesses in its planning and execution and cut expenses while improving efficiency,” (PR News)  For example, a business spends five thousand dollars to send out fliers promoting a new product.  Without a solid analysis, the business will have no idea whether or not the flier campaign was successful.  Evaluating a campaign essentially involves analyzing statistics and observing other tangible results.  However, this is not always so simple.  Forrest W. Anderson claims that, “We’d like to be able to say we spent $X on PR and it generated $Y in sales. This is usually difficult to do, because sales are the result of a number of non-PR factors, such as product design and pricing, distribution and other marketing factors such as advertising and the sales force,” (Anderson 1).

There are plenty of different ways to measure campaigns effectiveness.  One idea is to analyze the web presence a business has before and after the campaign.  This can be done simply and for free by using Google trends.  Google trends lets the user type in keywords and see the search popularity within a specified time window.  This allows a business to see if there is any potential correlation between a publicity campaign and the public’s awareness of said business.  Another way one can see the effects of a PR campaign is to do a baseline study, which compares how the public felt about a specific company before, during and after an advertising campaign.

Campaign evaluation plays an important role in every PR campaign.  Without effective analysis, a public relations campaign lacks the vital knowledge it takes to repeat a successful campaign, or end an unpopular campaign.

Anderson, F. (n.d.). How to evaluate public relations. Retrieved from 

PR campaign analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Advocacy in public relations

Behind every successful organization is a hard working PR and advertising team that works behind the scenes.  Now a few people would argue against this, and debate that the cost of a PR team would take away revenue from the cause behind the advocacy group.  However, PR professionals play a very important role promoting an organizations message.  The potential for this increased revenue is definitely worth the costs of setting up a worthwhile campaign.  Most of the time, a PR group can tailor fit a campaign to a specific group without high costs.  Writers of the book Promoting Issues & Ideas: A Guide to Public Relations for Nonprofit Organizations accurately describes this technique in saying that, “An organization needn’t spend a lot of money to have a public relations program, but the less money it has, the more effective its strategies must be.”

Advocacy groups and nonprofits have a variety of different means to promote their message through a strong campaign headed by a Public Relations crew.  The most obvious and cost efficient way of accomplishing this is through the internet.  A website or a blog is a good way to promote a cause across the world with millions of potential viewers.  Online accessibility to a nonprofit or advocacy groups makes it easy for the world to see a client’s cause, and potentially even donate.  A PayPal account can be easily set up so users can donate any form of currency to a cause through this service. 

Creating a blog, such as WordPress, can be free if the group plays its cards right.  For instance, the organization Girls’ Globe operates on WordPress.  This cause is dedicated to promoting women’s rights across the world.  Girls’ Globe’s WordPress lets visitors research more about the organization and its mission, as well as featuring a donation tab that lets visitors donate to the organization.  Cost efficient ways such as this allow nonprofit and advocacy groups to showcase their organization, while removing the high cost that usually comes along with a nonprofit.

Inc. M Booth & Associates (Corporate Author). (1995). Promoting issues & ideas: A guide to public relations for nonprofit organizations. The Foundation’s Center. Retrieved from

Girls’ Globe. [Web log message]. Retrieved from