Synchronizing crisis responses after a transgression: An analysis of BP's enacted crisis response to the Deepwater Horizon crisis in 2010

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Diers, AR ; Donohue, J (2013)
  • Publisher: Emerald

Purpose: With the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and until the well was officially "killed" on September 19, 2010, British Petroleum (BP) did not merely experience a crisis but a five-month marathon of sustained, multi-media engagement. Whereas traditional public relations theory teaches us that an organization should synchronize its messages across channels, there are no models to understand how an organization may strategically coordinate public relations messaging across traditional and social media platforms. This is especially important in the new media environment where social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) are increasingly being used in concert with traditional public relations tools (e.g. press releases) as a part of an organization's stakeholder engagement strategy. This paper seeks to address these issues. Design/methodology/approach: The present study is a content analysis examining all of BP's press releases (N=126), its Facebook posts (N=1,789), and its Twitter tweets (N=2,730) during the 2010 Gulf crisis (May 20, 2010 through September 20, 2010). Findings: Results demonstrate BP used a synchronized approach with press releases serving as the hub for their multi-media strategy. Originality/value: This paper identifies a synchronized approach for crisis communication in response to organizational transgressions. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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