British Petroleum tried to mitigate the crisis, when on the night of April 20, 2010, natural gas blasted through a concrete core and, traveled up the Deepwater rig’s riser to the platform; it ignited, and killed 11 workers and injured 17. Then on April 22 the rig capsized and sank. Without any opposing force, oil started discharging into the Gulf of Mexico. It tried so hard to not be another Exxon Valdez but failed. CEO Tony Hayward’s continuous insensitive comments and blaming everything on contractors in public was a perfect example of how not to handle a crisis.
When the damage was done at such a large scale the first step would have been to empathize and apologize but the CEO kept blurting out insensitive things and when one journalist asked him when is this all going to end, he said, “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back.” After this comment in the public, he was replaced.
After the spill, BP tried to cover-up its mistakes and there was no transparency in their communication. It tried to convince people that the Gulf of Mexico will heal itself after a while. It also released a scientific report saying the same. But evidence said something entirely different. Till after five years the wildlife there was still struggling to rebound.
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In May it tried to fix the dome and then later Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) cap was lowered into place. It allowed some oil to escape and allowed BP to siphon approximately 15,000 barrels of oil per day to a tanker. In early July it was replaced by a more permanent seal. Though the leak had slowed, it was estimated by scientists that 4,900,000 barrels of oil had already leaked and only 800,000 barrels had been captured.
While BP tried to do many things- paying off those who were affected billions of dollars, cleaning up the seashore and feeding media with information. What it did wrong was providing information without anticipating how much it would affect the lives and Hayward hardly stuck to the script and BP came out as a non-sensitive and only profit-driven organization in the media.
BP was the world’s third-largest energy company and the fourth-largest corporation in the world. No matter how big a company it was when the crisis stuck it cost them billions of dollars and a huge dent on their reputation and a Chinese aphorism fits perfectly in this situation, “A reputation carefully honed over hundreds of years can be destroyed in a single moment.”
Kritika Khatwani is a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai. She completed her winter internship with MSL, Mumbai and was recruited by Adfactors PR.
She is from Jhansi. She has done her graduation from Mass Communications and Journalism. Her varied life experiences resonate with her passion for raising awareness about social causes. This is evident from her participation in the short film- Gaokor: A Period House. Her avid inclination towards creativity and writing is what pushed her to pursue a career in public relations. Music and coffee are her meditation.