Crisis strategies in BP's Deepwater Horizon response : An image repair and situational crisis communication study

Bachelor thesis English OPEN
Johansson, Mikael (2017)
  • Subject: BP | Deepwater Horizon | crisis communication | image repair theory | situational crisis communication theory | strategies | Social Sciences | Samhällsvetenskap | Media and Communications | Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap | Communication Studies | Kommunikationsvetenskap

The BP Deepwater Horizon crisis in 2010 was one the largest catastrophes in the history of the oil industry. BP was sued over the disaster, and lost several billion dollars. This study examines the crisis response strategies and/or image repair strategies, which can be found in BP's press releases following the Deepwater Horizon crisis. In particular, the study looks closer at what established crisis communication strategies could be discerned in the material, and how they are used discursively. The theories used were the Image Repair Theory (IRT) and the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT). The results show that BP utilized a number of different established crisis response strategies and/or image repair strategies in their crisis communication work in the press releases. These strategies were concern, corrective action, ingratiation, transcendence, differentiation, denial, shifting the blame/scapegoating, defeasibility, compassion and attacking the accuser. They were used discursively by the CEO by expressing sympathy, promising that a similar event will never happen again, by stating appreciation for and praising the leadership of the U.S. President and public sector. What is more, it is used by describing in detail how the solution process progresses, by stating what the causes of the crisis were, by describing other involved actors' lack of taking responsibility and by establishing a fraud hotline. The main conclusions of the study are that BP used several crisis strategies in their press release s, though rather inconsistently. Additionally, BP used the strategies in an ambiguous manner, and changed strategies over time. Lastly, one main conclusion is also that a company is prepared to utilize crisis communication strategies in their practical communications work, though not entirely in the way prescribed by the theories.
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