What We Can Learn From BP

by Shannon Suetos

Over the past two and a half months we all have watched the developments in the Gulf. The oil spill was unexpected and tragic, but what has BP done to help the situation? It turns out not much, and they are getting ridiculed by public relation pros everywhere.

You may not be an oil company, but knowing how to manage crisis communications is a must for every business. Looking back at other crisis communication situations and you will see not everyone handles the pressure as bad as BP.

Back in 1982 Tylenol had a huge situation on their hands when people started dying from the over the counter drug. After admitting yes we are wrong, they went on to fix the problem as fast as they could, and rest assured most of us still use Tylenol to this day.


Knowing all of the good and/or bad things the public is saying about your company is imperative. The Internet has made this a much easier task. If you have a Gmail account you can set up Google Alerts for your company. This will allow you to see who is mentioning you on their websites, and if any of your articles or press releases got picked up.

Monitoring what people are saying on social media sites is also important. You may not have a presence on these sites, but monitoring them is a must. USAA, an insurance company has developed an entire radio campaign letting listeners know what people say about them on Facebook. HGTV does a similar thing for their TV shows—showcasing a tweet or Facebook comment about a show they are airing.

On the flip side of these examples, you can find anyone who has a problem with your product or service and contact them directly. Many airlines have done this—there have been many instances when someone has tweeted about not having a pillow etc, before takeoff and many times the situation is addressed then. Because these complaints are in real time, they can be handled a lot faster than if they waited to go home, and call a customer service rep.

Admitting You’re Wrong

No one likes to admit when they are wrong, but for companies it is a must. Take the blame, but also say what you are going to do and then do it. This is where BP failed horribly. They finally admitted what was wrong, but have been slow to fix anything. If your company consists of more than just you, make sure you or your partner is the one making these statements—the CEO should always be telling the public what is wrong.


Depending on the crisis it may take a while before the error is corrected. If this is the case make sure your public is fully aware of everything that is happening and getting updates about the situation. In BP’s case they were informing the public, but it wasn’t correct information—taking the situation from bad to worse.

These may seem like general ideas, but you will not believe how many companies overlook these processes. It will take a little time out of your day, but it is better than having a full on crisis on your hands.

Shannon Suetos is an expert writer on VoIP phone systems based in San Diego, California. She writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs such as VoIP phones at Resource Nation.

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