Front page of USA Today this morning, and just about everywhere else in the media: a “before” and “after” photo or video clip of the oil well deep in the Gulf. Unlike the “before” shot, the “after” shot – for now- shows no cloud of oil pouring out deep under the Gulf surface for the first time since the oil rig explosion three months ago.
The news is dramatic: Fully 86 days after the drilling platform explosion and the subsequent leak into the Gulf of Mexico, BP announced that its latest attempt to plug the leak appears to be working.
Welcome to chapter 2 of this crisis. Chapter 1 was going to go on as long as the oil was flowing in the Gulf. If Exxon Valdez was a tanker, BP has been an Ocean (ok a Gulf). And while we can debate the various decisions, gaffes, choice of spokespersons and other insensitivities, none of it made much difference as long as oil as still flowing. In the world of Crisis Communications, BP has been the Villain as long as the oil was gushing.
Have they improved in their communications over the past few weeks. Yes. The ads featuring the auditors and the beach clean up crews are better than self serving comments from the CEO. But the credibility of the ads couldn’t register with the public – and especially with residents of the ravaged Gulf Coast – as long as the facts have been bad.
And Chapter 2 is by no means the last chapter of the crisis. For those outside of the Gulf region the capping event (if it holds, and if the resulting pressure doesn’t cause a new leak) could be the beginning of the recovery. Articles quoting those in the region show that no matter what BP has said, restoring jobs and the ecosystem is the real first step. http://nyti.ms/9Cpycd
But If this cap holds, BP has a chance to be perceived more credibly. Not every statement will be as scrutinized, and some media may leave them alone for a while…perhaps until we get into the “a year later” story cycle.
One of the BP executives was correct in saying that the cap is no cause for celebration. That’s certainly not an appropriate word for those who live in the Gulf region.
Do you agree that this is the beginning of chapter 2 of the oil leak story?