BP Public Relations 101


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused by British Petroleum, also known as BP, is still causing widespread controversy for the company today, over a half of a decade later. Frequently referred to as “The Worst Oil Spill in History,” the BP spill wreaked havoc on the environment while impacting dozens of species both short-term and long-term. Rightly so, BP received an onslaught of negative media attention through the press, which was shortly followed by an uproar of environmental activists and disgruntled consumers. After an October 2014 court verdict, BP was found as “grossly negligent” in the occurrence of the oil spill which left them responsible for paying as much as $18 billion in financial penalties.



To combat their negative brand image in the minds of the consumers, BP initially set out on a $500 million funded “Public Relations Makeover”. Over the years the company has made numerous attempts to convince the public that all is well and back to normal in the Gulf of Mexico. Although completely unethical, BP continues to report misleading statements and incorrect information to the press. British Petroleum engages in greenwashing to make their clean-up efforts appear as environmentally friendly by releasing “PR materials that highlight the Gulf’s resilience” and “compiling scientific studies that suggest the area is making a rapid recovery.” The company has also begun offering customer loyalty programs as well as a new form of gasoline called “invigorate” which is supposed to burn cleaner and thus be better for environment. Among many other repercussions, BP is forced to spend this extra time and money correcting their brand image following this disastrous mistake.



The unethical business practices which BP has chosen to utilize in their public relations campaign will ultimately be confronted by ethical consumerism, defined in Converging Media as “a kind of consumer activism in which consumers buy only products that they believe are produced ethically.” A large majority of consumers today have already chosen to boycott BP products and services as a direct result of the 2010 Gulf Spill. When a consumer makes a purchase they are essentially casting a vote, and so refraining from making purchases at BP will affect their sales and force them to reevaluate their practices. Although ethics can be a tricky concept to navigate, especially in the business setting, it is a necessary component to maintaining the integrity of all the things that we do in life.




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