A CRISIS DRIVEN
International Summer University Program 2013
Copenhagen Business School
Crisis Communication and Social Media -
A Simulation Game Learning Experience
How to handle a crisis in a modern world - a reflective account of the BP oil spill in relation to our own
experiences and learning outcomes as responsible crisis communicators.
Table of contents
• Crisis type
• Key stakes, issues & challenges
• Crisis plan
• Social media
• Media conference
• Stakeholder Q&A
• Media sum up
How do you understand BP oil spill crisis?
The BP oil spill crisis is a crisis that could have
been prevented if a blowout stopper had been
Coombs (Cornelissen, 2011) defines four types
of crisis as seen to the right: faux pas, accidents, terrorism and transgressions. The crises can then
be classified into being intentional/unintentional and external/internal.
This BP crises emerged as an “accidents” that happened during normal internal organisational
operations, and there was no bad intentions behind it.
BP's key stakes, issues, challenges and
The pollution of the ocean is first
of all an environmental challenge,
but also several minor issues
evolved e.g. all the consequences
for wild animal on land as well as
in the sea, and furthermore the
business for restaurants,
fishermen and shops nearby the
leak. Other difficulties could also
be corporate challenges such as
rebuilding trust and their
Was there a crisis plan, and could the
crisis have been prevented?
The crisis developed faster than BP had ever
The crisis however could have been prevented if
the blowout stopper had been installed.
BP oil did not have a crisis plan, and the CEO
(Tony Hayward ) handled the situation in a way
that made it only worse for BP as a company.
Furthermore, it could be argued that BP did not
have the strongest pre-reputations and therefore
did not get the benefit of the doubt, or the
opportunity to get the "halo" effect. (Coombs &
Image: European Space AgencyMap of the length of time oil was in the Gulf. The
lightest orange indicates 1-3 weeks coverage; the darkest is 16-18 weeks.
FACEBOOK AGAINST BP
• Facebook page against BP oil:
• Has existed since start 2013. Post articles and
videos about the aftermath of the crisis very often
• Refers to another page against BP Oil:
www.AgainstBP.com - for people to discover
more about the bad things BP oil do and spread
people to other pages like this.
• 304 likes.
BP'S OWN FACEBOOK PAGE
• Joined Facebook 29 June 2009
• 487,694 likes
• Not able to see their first post after the oil spill
• Daily updates about their work with the oil
o How much were collected
Social media facts
BP used several platforms to communicate with stakeholders and the public. Both
Facebook and Twitter were used everyday to communicate during and after the oil spill.
The reason for this was that BP found it important to answer all people posting questions
and statements on the Facebook page. Whether the posts are negative or positive, we
answer them most of them in order to make people feel equal threatened.
Furthermore people affected by the oil spill crisis
could go to the BP website and apply for
compensation. This is in order to help people
get back on track as soon as possible with as
little loss a possible.
Since BP did not react fast enough to the crisis, and the CEO at the
time expressed himself in a very unfortunately way, if affected the
reputation in a negative way. But on the other side, we as the Social
Media stakeholder realised that by using the different platforms it
was possible to reach a broader proportion of our stakeholders and
get the proper information communicated.
To the Q&A session we were prepared but we
still received questions that we did not
expected and were prepared for. We hoped
that our preparation for the Q&A session
made us appear confident, but still regretful
for the disaster that we caused.
We were able to respond to almost every
unexpected questions, but we also had to
respond with: "We are not familiar with this
but we will investigate it and get back to
you", to some of the unexpected questions
from the stakeholders.
Questions to stakeholders
Mexican Gulf: What do you expect BP to do
further? They have done much to collect oil
and invested in projects to prevent crisis and
figure out the impact on the environment.
BBC: What did you do to cover BP's effort to
handle the crisis and their impact on the
environment? Don't you think that you have
an impact on letting BP move on, and not
covering only the bad things of the case?
Hoffington Post: Do you think that you covered
the crisis neutrally?
Green Peace: What do you expect from BP to
do after the crisis?
White House: Are you planning on working with
BP about making plans plans concerning the
Don't you think it would be a good idea to
cooperate with BP for a greener future?
Media training sum up
Through the media training the mexican gulf stakeholder had troubles answering
how they think BP should have done better, and what they could done further. They
sort of expected BP to save the world, and to save the industries damaged by the
crisis. But else we think that we got satisfactory answers to our questions.
We tried to push especially BBC, and the Hoffington Post, since they are the media
covering the crisis. They are a part of getting over the crisis, and therefore an
Question: "Hello BP America. We are a group from Copenhagen Business School who are studying Crisis Communication and
Social Media. How do you Harmonize your goals about a greener future with White House initiatives? See link from the White
House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/securing-american-energy. Thank you!"
BP oil was not ready with a crisis plan which of course places them in a bad situation when facing a
crisis. But as we today have experienced a huge development in the use of social media the crisis will
spread and develop much faster compared to crisis that happened just 10 years ago. Of course the
social media, the other way around, also gives BP oil the opportunity to reach their stakeholders and
post statements, but still it creates a huge forum where people can criticize BP and thereby create a
lot of negative word of mouth.
• Anthonissen, P. (ed.) 2008 Crisis Communication: Practical PR Strategies for Reputation Management
and Company Survival, Kogan Page. (200 pages)
• Umer, R., Sellnow, T., and Seeger, M. 2010. Effective Crisis Communication: Moving from Crisis to
Opportunity. Sage Publications (260 pages).
• White, C. 2011, Social Media, Crisis Communication and Emergency Management: Leveraging Web
2.0 Technologies. CRC Press (330 pages) - Exercises included.
• Smith, D. and Elliott, D. 2006. Crisis Management. Systems and Structures for Prevention and
• Coombs and Holladay, 2006. Unpacking the halo effect. Reputation and crisis management. Journal of
• Cornelissen, J. (2011). Corporate communication: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. London: Sage.
English & organizational
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