Overcoming the BP Crisis Research Proposal

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Research Proposal on Overcoming the BP Crisis Assignment

The recent explosion and spill involving the Deep Water Horizon well that is owned by BP in the Gulf of Mexico; has created heated debate about how the company is handling the situation. What happened was various executives claimed before the accident that the techniques used for deep water exploration, were considered to be a safe and reliable way to drill for oil. The lack of regulation and number of short cuts that were used by the company; created a situation that would contribute to the accident, which helped cause the environmental disaster. (Jonsson 2010) to make matters worse, many of the company executives appeared to be out of touch with reality, as their actions or lack actions, would increase the overall amounts of criticism. At which point, they would only become more severe. A recent example of this kind of outrageous behavior can be seen with CEO Tony Hayward. Initially after the accident he was supervising the cleanup operation in the Gulf of Mexico. However, after having heated testimony with Congress, he decided to have Robert Dudley oversee what was taking place. The day after the announcement occurred, Hayward was attending a yacht race with his son in Southern England. (Robbins 2010) This is problematic, because from a public relations standpoint, the various executives and the actions that they undertake are: making the company appear to be unconcerned about the accident from their well. As result, since the incident has begun the image of the company has been severely damaged from these actions. To repair this damage, BP must engage in an unorthodoxed strategy to show that they are doing everything they can; while at the same time working with the Gulf Coast residents to effectively clean up the spill. Where, the company is facing the largest environmental disaster ever seen and large amounts of lawsuits, which could cause liabilities to rise to the trillions of dollars. As a Public Relations (PR) Consultant, your job is to take this situation and slowly rebuild a favorable image of the company. To achieve this objective will require: examining successful PR strategies used in the past (through a literature review) and how these ideas could be implemented into an actionable plan. Together, these two elements will provide the greatest insights, as to how the company can be able to slowly rebuild its image.

Aims and Objectives


The aim of this study is to determine how the BP can be able to overcome the disaster and improve its public image. To do this you would need to answer a number of different questions. The most notable would include: what are the possible legal ramifications that the company can expect if it does not improve its image? What strategies were used in the past to overcome major PR related issues? What elements should a public relations strategy contain, to show that the company is doing the best it can? The answers to these questions will provide: a general overview, as to how the company should move forward to rebuild it image.


To answer the various research questions, a literature review will be conducted using a variety of different sources. This will provide a historical perspective on what tools and tactics worked most effectively, in helping to restore the company image. At which point, a research analysis will be conducted that will examine the results using qualitative research. This is when researchers are examining various forms or research and data to see the true effect. (Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research 2007) in the case of BP, this information is useful in helping to indentify what types of actions, can be taken that can restore a favorable image of the company. The type of data that will be collected for the review is: though the use of various scholarly academic sources such as: journals and books.


'There's No Excuses', 2007, Petroleum Economist, pg. 1. Available from Proquest. [19 June 2010]

In this article, it talks about how the Exxon Valdez disaster was the result of a trend that has been occurring in the oil and gas industry, since the downfall of the Soviet Union. Where, various unproven reserves were opened up to multi-national corporations. While this produced inexpensive oil, it also set the stage for large environmental disasters to occur. As a result, the author calls for international standards that would apply to the oil and gas industry. (There's No Excuse 2007)

'Green Remediation Strategy for Superfund Sites', 2009, Hazardous Waste Consultant, vol. 27, pgs. 1 -- 6. Available from Proquest. [19 June 2010]

In this article, it shows how a superfund has been established and administered by the EPA to deal with a variety of environmental disasters. Where, since the 1980's this fund has been used to clean up various Hazardous Waste sites around the country. The fund is also used to help a variety of industries make a successful transition, in implementing various green technologies and reducing their overall environmental impact. (Green Remediation Strategy for Superfund Sites 2009)

'Issues and Crisis Management' 2007, PR Week, pg. S 57. Available from: Proquest. [19 June 2010]

In this article, it discusses a recent oil spill that occurred in the UK, which caused about 3 thousand gallons to wash up on the beach. According to the article, the company that was involved in the spill faced a major public relations and health disaster. Where, the spill made the company initially look bad, while large groups of volunteers would go to the affected beaches and begin camping out, to help the clean up efforts. To rectify the situation, the company began to coordinate efforts with government officials and local volunteers. The result of the increased amounts of transparency and cooperation helped the company to be seen more favorably. Where, they were viewed in this light because their response to the spill. (Issues and Crisis Management 2007)

"Boards of Directors Need to Oversee Corporate Sustainability more Effectively', 2010, PR Newswire, Available from Proquest. [19 June 2010] http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=0&did=2054701491&SrchMode=2&sid=4&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1276983049&clientId=45065

In this article, it discusses how the majority of Corporate America does not have any kind of long-term environmental plans or accident contingency plans. Where, the Conference Board conducted a survey of 50 corporations, to determine how prepared companies were for various environmental or other kinds of crisis situations they could face. The results were: that 89% of corporations had either a generic plan in place or did not have a plan. The Conference Board also found, that the boards of directors of most companies never have any kind of discussions as to what to the long-term environmental impacts of their activities will be.

'Maritime Law Protecting BP', 2010, PR Newswire, Available from: Proquest. [19 June 2010] http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=3&did=2043100591&SrchMode=2&sid=5&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1276983697&clientId=45065

In this article, it discusses how the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), limits the total amount of liability to $75 million dollars. This would include all available compensation for the families of the oil rig workers and the Gulf Coast residents who saw their livelihoods destroyed, by the accident. The article then, calls for this law to be amended to force BP to pay their fair share. (Maritime Law Protecting BP 2010)

Research Methodology

The above research indicates, that in order for BP to restore their image they must be engaging in a strategy that will address a number of different issues on multiple fronts. At the same time, they have to show flexibility and empathy for what happened. The actions that the CEO has taken during the crisis are showing; that he does not fully understand how important the public relations aspect is. As a result, the image of company continues to become worse, as the days to turn into weeks.

When you analyze the research that was conducted, it is clear that the company needs to use those techniques that have worked in the past, to help mitigate the potential fall out that will take place. This means, that they must consider using a number of different principals of various strategies that have worked in the past. The most notable would include: supporting international standards for drilling, improving transparency and taking the lead in establishing a fund to compensate victims. Obviously, the disaster shows how there are a lack of international standards in place for deep water drilling. This problematic, as reports are surfacing that the company knowingly cut corners and circumvented regulations, in order to achieve their production targets. From a PR standpoint, if the company actively supported efforts within the industry to create some kind of international standards, they could begin to start deflecting some of the criticisms. (BP Engineer Called Deepwater Horizon Nightmare Well Days Before Blast 2010)

The way that the company is handling the spill shows a lack of transparency in the process. Where, BP will provide periodic updates, yet beyond this point is when the company seems to be very secretive, about what actions they are taking to stop the leak and clean up the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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