Monday, June 14, 2010

(Ineffective) Communication During a Crisis, Part I: BP CEO Tony Hayward

Guest Blog By: Eliza Shepherd

Problems with BP’s Communication

Downplaying the size of the oil spill.

From early on, BP has been downplaying the size of the oil spill, initially reporting leaking 1,000 barrels a day, when the actual amount turned out to be at least five times greater. This makes the public question BP’s honesty, which hurts the company’s credibility. To make matters worse, CEO Tony Hayward recently said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." Not only did this hurt his credibility, but it also gives the impression to the world that he does not really care. This is definitely not the image the company CEO should be portraying, especially during a crisis when all eyes are on you.

Here is an image of Mr. Hayward’s relatively “tiny” amount of oil…

Not listening to the public’s feedback.

When the reputation of BP is on the line, among other things, anyone communicating on behalf of the company needs to be aware of how their message is being perceived by the public. However, BP CEO Tony Hayward has opted to stay clear of newspapers and TV broadcasts, since, as he claims, “I don’t want my judgment clouded by what is being said about me or BP.”

Mr. Hayward needs to know how he is coming across, so he can learn from his communication blunders. We are only 50% correct in knowing our own image. Listening to feedback is crucial to communicate effectively.

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