FIR Live #20: Communicating the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The explosion and subsequent oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico last April rapidly became the worst oil spill in US history and the single event that severely affected energy company BP‘s reputation on a huge scale. In this episode of FIR Live, Gerald Baron, founder and director of PIER, and Neil Chapman, a BP communicator, discuss the communication efforts since the event and consider the lessons for crisis communication.

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About our Conversation Partners

Gerald R. Baron is the president and founder of Baron & Company, a marketing and public relations firm in Northwest Washington, USA, and authors the Crisisblogger blog. He created the PIER System, the only completely integrated Internet-based communication management system for crisis communications, issue management, and ongoing press and public information management. A frequent speaker at conferences, he has served as a strategic and marketing consultant, corporate communications director, publisher, college professor, and entrepreneur.

Gerald is the author of three books on business and marketing, including Now is Too Late 2, one of the best books available on crisis communication in the digital era. More recently, he wrote the white paper Unending Flow: Case Study on Communications in the Gulf Oil Spill, available for download as a PDF (free) or as a Kindle ebook ($6.99).

Neil Chapman has worked on high profile public affairs issues in different parts of the world for more than 25 years. He has responded to major crises in the US and UK including the Deepwater Horizon event, legal cases, helicopter crashes, trading scandals, hostage taking and natural disasters. From January 2011 he will run his own communications consultancy, Alpha Voice Communications, focused on crisis communications readiness and presentation/media training.

Neil has been on the communications front line for controversial industrial projects, company takeovers, restructuring and lobbying campaigns. He also has experience working on developments for growing business in Latin America, Africa and Asia. As an oil company executive, he was PR chair for three energy associations – the US Natural Gas Supply Association, Center for LNG and the UK Offshore Operators Association – when they each faced some of their most difficult communications challenges. He has trained and counselled scores of business people at all levels on honing their communication skills, particularly when delivering hard messages or facing hostile audiences.

Neil was a journalist in the UK, working for newspapers, TV and radio.

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FIR Live is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years. Information: www.ragan.com.

[Photo at top: The Gulf Coast Management Team in downtown New Orleans, LA on 21 September 2010. Incident Command Posts in Houma, LA and Mobile, AL were consolidated into this location in order to manage day-to-day operations in the Gulf Coast region. Photo © BP p.l.c. Used with permission. More BP photos.]

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)