The recent BP oil spill in the Gulf has left many Americans outraged and searching for answers. Unfortunately, BP has been un-reassuring and failed miserably in its crisis communications efforts with their slow response time and immediate efforts to “lawyer up.” Instead of taking responsibility for the spill, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward “continues to downsize the spill’s impact and the environmental damage that it has caused”, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
BP’s top priorities need to focus on moving forward: providing for the families that lost a loved one in the tragedy, implementing more aggressive efforts to plug the well, along with adding measures to decrease the risk of this happening, again. In addition, BP needs to lend a helping hand to protect our precious ecosystems that have been affected by the spill, along with actively helping clean up the wildlife affected (i.e. – pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins, etc.) and provide relief to the industries and businesses that have been affected by the spill.
The way a company handles a crisis is a good indication of the moral and ethical character within its organizational culture. BP could have taken some advice from Johnson & Johnson on the importance of crisis communications. Johnson & Johnson successfully used the media, both PR and paid advertising, as a forum to communicate their crisis communications strategy.
Back in October of 1982, Tylenol faced a tremendous crisis when seven people in Chicago were reported dead after an unknown suspect had reportedly tampered with the bottles, putting 65 milligrams of deadly cyanide into the extra-strength capsules. Although, Johnson & Johnson knew they were not responsible for the tampering of the product after it had been placed on store shelves, they assumed responsibility and recalled all of their capsules immediately from the market.
Once the product was removed, Johnson & Johnson came up with a successful campaign to re-introduce their product and restore confidence back to the consumer. Tylenol products were re-introduced containing triple-seal tamper resistant packaging. There were also coupon incentives for consumers and thousands of sales presentations made to the medical community by Tylenol executives to regain their trust.
The organization was able to re-establish the Tylenol brand as one to the most trusted over-the-counter consumer products in America. Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol crisis is clearly an example of what other companies should follow if they find themselves facing a similar crisis with such overwhelming odds.
If you have any questions on the topic of crisis communications or would like to see how the latest forms of media, marketing and technology can help grow your business, contact Kristine Bruner at (954) 376-3683.