The Learning from the BP saga; for corporate

Prior Planning: Crisis almost always comes unannounced. Their sudden nature calls for a prudent approach and hence it’s essential for every corporate to have a ‘Crisis Management Plan in place’ beforehand. Or you might find yourself ‘up the creek without a paddle’

[Referenced from an influential Oxford Executive Research Briefing from 1995 titled – ‘The Impact of Catastrophes on Shareholder Value.’ – It stated that companies with an effective crisis plan saw a 5 percent gain in shareholder price after 50 days, while companies without a plan lost 15 percent up to one year after the crisis. Exxon another American Petroleum Giant too had an oil spill accident in 1989. A year after the accident Exxon shares ended that year 7 percent above where the stock was before the accident. Whereas a year on, BP lost half of its share.]

Act & Communicate: In the age of Internet any discrepancy between a company’s action and its communication will be caught within matter of days. Beware that your communication reflects your action to the BP had uploaded a video that showed several hundred workers cleaning oil-stricken shores, but subsequent posts on different blogs and sites reported stories, of the video being a mere PR exercise, and no real clean up being done. Following this BP got involved in another controversy when it was accused of ‘using Photoshop‘ to exaggerate the pictures it had issued in public domain. If that was not enough, in October by the time the oil spill was becoming a distant memory, a new video came up, showing BP crew hiding dead fishes on public beaches. These examples of divergence between action and communication should set an example in future for all corporate, as to how vigilant and smart is the audience. Better not to try pulling a fast one on them.

Communicate, communicate & communicate: Don’t just talk, hear the audience too acknowledge their sentiments and converse with them. Don’t just speak hold discussions. Don’t be afraid to communicate & engage the audience even if you’re delivering bad news. Bottom-line: People will hate you more if you try to keep them out / stonewall them. Communicate whatever you have, but do communicate. Maintaining sullen silences will just flair tempers.

Be There: People are going to vent their ire, whether you are there to bear it or not, won’t matter to them. By being in front of your audience, you can work your best to soothe the ire, and move towards more productive actions. Do not try some smart ass moves like BP did, at a point in June 2010, it had disabled commenting on its Flickr, & YouTube account. Even its Facebook page allowed commenting only by people who ‘like’ the page. That’s a totally sulking attitude, which the audience will hate with vehemence.

Involve: Everybody out here has an opinion, by calling for and listening to their opinion, you will gain invaluable information. Also the audience feels involved, it makes them feel that they are also contributing to the solutions

Do Brainstorming: Every corporate has limited employees, but via internet billions of people are interacting with the corporate, many of these billions will be people, with brilliant ideas for your solution. If BP might had tried, maybe some brilliant engineering student might have been able to provide it with a ingenious solution like using human hair to stop oil spreading. When you have millions of brains at your disposal, utilize them judiciously.

Own your Brand: The most basic thing to do. When audience was looking for BP on twitter, the most logical handle they would search for was BP’, and this handle was and is owned by ‘Bryan Pendelton‘ from Pittsburgh. Makes you wonder, what was BP thinking when it joined Twitter. Securing the most obvious Twitter ID that people will look for is common sense. When the most obvious handle @BP is not owned by BP it this definitely makes it hard for audience to communicate on Twitter. The Twitter handle BP is using BP_America, who in their right min would search for such a handle on twitter, when trying to locate BP? It’s an obscure handle. I definitely wouldn’t search for this handle and I doubt most others would either.

If BP would have had been active on Social Media, before this accident, they would have had been able to generate a substantial number of followers and likes on the different platforms. And this group of followers would have been a boon for BP, when it began communication about the Oil spill accident. BP could have reached out to these followers, free of cost, using them to disseminate information and communication about the Oil Spill far and wide.

Social media is a powerful tool, but as the old saying goes, a tool is only as good as the person who wields it.

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