Crisis Communication: The Work of Managers




Crisis Communication


Crisis Communication

Crises are an inevitable phenomenon and present several challenges to managers and employees. The manner in which companies and managers handle such crises defines the way the public responds. Moreover, when a firm’s negligent actions cause harm to the environment, the economy, and to humans, public outrage is often unavoidable (MacLeod, 2015). For these reasons, it is in the best interest of a company to react responsibly in order to avoid future harm. Regardless of the level of preparedness in advance that a company engages in or the level of efficiency in the way it responds after the crisis, reputational damage is still likely to be faced. As such, crisis communication is an essential consideration for any company. Crisis management helps companies during crisis in terms of planning ways of effectively managing crisis. For instance, the case of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was followed by a flurry of environmentalists, governmental, scientists, and residents fighting to combat the leakages and mitigate the effects of the spill on the economy, environment, and lives (Valackiene, 2010). Meanwhile, the leadership of BP struggled to respond effectively to the crisis, to protect stock, prepare for litigation, and salvage its public reputation.
A crisis is defined by Ki and Brown (2013), as the perception of an unpredictable event threatening crucial expectancies of the stakeholders and has the potential to cause dire consequences to the performance and outcome of the organization. According to Gupta (2011), crisis management is a series of factors that are designed to mitigate crises and to reduce the actual damages inflicted and to minimize the negative effects on stakeholders and the organization. By and large, the BP Gulf oil spill fits the definition of a crisis while the efforts of BP as outlined in the case reading matches the definition of crisis management. The various efforts undertaken by BP in the Gulf of Mexico region reflects the aspect of mitigation of the crisis and its effects on the stakeholders and the company.
One important aspect of the crisis management process entails acquiring and publicizing of the concerns and information surrounding the crisis. Such efforts comprises of crisis communication. In the case of BP, the senior management were actively involved in sharing information concerning the crisis to the public and affected stakeholders. In my opinion, BP employed both ethical and unethical crisis management response strategies. It was ethical in the sense that they committed to updating the stakeholders and the public in a very clear, concise manner (Valackiene, 2010). Moreover, they have committed huge amounts of funds to mitigating the effects of the crisis in the region. These efforts are evident in form of the finances allocated by the company to clean up the mess using sand and other techniques. The company has also allocated funds to different states that were affected by the spill to recover their tourism sector. So far, these efforts have borne some fruits with states recovering their positions in the tourism sector. These efforts have brought hope to the lives of the affected and bring a promise of a better tomorrow. It can be argued that BP demonstrated a sense of social responsibility in owning liability and undertaking these efforts. On the other hand, BP equally engaged in unethical responses such as denial of some of the magnitude of the effects of oil spill. These portrayed the company as unprepared, unorganized, and lacking professionalism (MacLeod, 2015). Based on these observations, I argue that while the overall response by BP to the crisis was favourable, part of the response was negative and tarnished the public’s perception of the company throughout the crisis.
When communicating in a crisis, it is imperative that the spokesperson state only what they are sure of and what they can confirm while deferring to third-party experts on issues that are outside their expertise. It is also very important for the spokesperson to refrain from any form of speculations especially when answering hypothetical questions. Initially, BP’s CEO continually underestimated and denied the devastating effects of the oil spill (MacLeod, 2015). Nevertheless, I consider the approach not to guarantee the success of any particular tactic in plugging the leaking wellhead a strategic one.
It is clear from the discussion that to respond to the oil spill and the damaged reputation and financial crisis that followed the oil spill; BP mobilized significant initiatives on mitigating the effects. Indeed, the company mobilized resources and equipment to stem the oil spill. These efforts presents an important lesson that a company can largely benefit from an interaction with the affected stakeholders during a crisis by deploying standards of corporate responsibility initiatives that meet their expectations. This would entail efforts to understand the extent of the damage of the crisis on stakeholders, how the stakeholders might react following a crisis, as well as the information and resources that they might offer in the management of the crisis. Building an alliance with the stakeholders and seeking coordination prior, during, and after a crisis is likely to achieve greater success outcomes in a crisis management. Meanwhile, having a transparent and open sharing of information with stakeholders as opposed to denial and emphasizing their own concerns would also be very helpful in managing the crisis. This implies that companies need to be more open, timely, trustworthy, and honest concerning what they know and what they do not know concerning the crisis.

Gupta, R. (2011). Corporate Communication: A Strategic Tool for Crisis Management. Journal Of Economic Development, Management, IT, Finance & Marketing, 3(2), 55-67.

Ki, E., & Brown, K. A. (2013). The Effects of Crisis Response Strategies on Relationship Quality Outcomes. Journal Of Business Communication, 50(4), 403-420. doi:10.1177/0021943613497056

MacLeod, A. (2015). Effective information management and assurance for a modern organisation during a crisis. Journal Of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, 9(1), 52-59.

Valackiene, A. (2010). Efficient Corporate Communication: Decisions in Crisis Management. Engineering Economics, 21(1), 99-110.

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