Oil spill
Photo Credit: tubblesnap via Compfight cc

In 2010 the Gulf of Mexico was the site of a massive environmental tragedy: The BP oil spill.  After 87 days the spill was stopped, but only after leaking 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  BP had a crisis on their hands, and John Kimberly of CNN believes BP blew their crisis management operation.

Instantly there was one problem with how they handled the crisis: they took too long to acknowledge the severity of it.  Some may ask, how can that be?  The CEO of BP claimed that he was out of the loop about what was happening on the oil rig.  Another mistake that they made was how they failed to empathize with the families and individuals who died or whose lives were put in danger.  Kimberly believes that because of those issues, management lost most of their credibility and drew an extreme amount of anger.

So the question now becomes, what could they have done differently?  For starters, the CEO is the face of your organization in times of crisis.  They must know how to deal with the media and the PR side of a crisis.  The media can be brutal when it comes to organizational crisis, so any missteps must be avoided.  In other words, they should have been prepared to act “swiftly and empathetically” during their time of crisis.

Another more difficult way to handle the crisis may have been a well thought out and carefully planned exit, as sometimes that can be the only option.  The CEO of BP was under heavy fire from the media and had caused extreme outrage throughout the country.  Kimberly acknowledges that the CEO is a very good executive in many ways, but after all of the outrage that he seemed to cause he hurt BP and he is now “baggage” to the company.

Recently BP has come out and tried to mend the bridges that they burnt, and have even started to acknowledge that they handled the situation poorly.