Public Relation Theory


In both the disasters the stakeholders were the common public and all the employees that served the organization and the citizenry of Queensland. It must be noted that to any disaster of the size that has been mentioned in the case study, it is obvious for the common public to become the stakeholders and in BP’s case it was not only the common public but the corporate world too who eventually became related to the disaster and to the outcome of the disaster. The energy resource industry’s stakeholders should be considered as publics in the BP case and such consideration has some basis. It must be noted that “BP and federal agencies initially estimated less than 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) per day was leaking from the ruptured well. That number soon grew to 5,000 barrels, then ultimately to as much as 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) per day” (Courson, 2010). And such a disaster eventually encompassed the lives of millions who got affected by the spill and who should be considered publics in the case scenario. Moreover, in the Queensland flood case the populace of Queensland should obviously be considered as the most affected publics. This is quite a natural consideration and this has its own reasons too. 


The stakeholders to both the disasters should be segmented and prioritized. In the case of BP the stakeholders/the public must be divided into corporate and common publics. In BP’s case the primary publics were the interest groups, including the environmentalists’ groups and the common public who were either directly or indirectly affected by the spillage of oil into the gulf. Though marine species were thoroughly affected by the spillage, for the sake of the case study they cannot be identified as publics. But the marine species constituting the marine environment should also be considered stakeholders to the BP oil spillage disaster. The corporate sector’s players should be segmented into corporate publics acting as stakeholders to the spillage disaster. The interest groups and other political groups should be put into another segment. The common public, on the other hand should also be put in yet another segment. But among the segments, the common public’s segment should be given priority primarily because pollution affects the common public and communities and societies and polluting the maritime environment the spillage ultimately affected the lives of many both directly and indirectly. Polluting the marine environment, the oil spillage devastated the occupation and profession of those who depended on marine life for their business, example – the fishermen. Such publics should also be prioritized and their segment should be given more emphasis. Moreover, in the case of the flood the primary priority should be given to the population that was directly affected by the flood. Though interest groups and political parties should also be considered as publics that were affected by the flood; those families and family members who were directly affected by the flood should be considered as primary stakeholders to the disaster. Hence, it can be said to any disaster the common people should be considered primary stakeholders as they are often directly impacted by the disasters. 


Different approaches were adopted by the leaders in the two cases. The leadership’s role in mitigating any problem at the face of any disaster should be considered an important one. In the oil spillage disaster, the leadership of BP failed to convince the public of the actual steps that the Company was taking to mitigate the problem or to alleviate the degree of the effect of the spillage. The leadership of BP was self-centred in his approach and this conveyed a negative message to the public through the media. On the contrary, the leadership in the flood case showed active participation in the entire event and the leader showed that a leader’s duty is primarily to think of his/her followers and not of him/her only. Anna Bligh was universally praised for her efforts in mitigating the post-flood problems primarily due to the fact that she communicated with the media transparently and on a continuous basis informing the citizenry the fact that she had been a responsible leader worried about the negative impacts on the citizenry that the flood caused. Bligh’s public appearance embodied a perfect public relation strategy and her appearance embodied the worries that a leader should have in terms of making decision about how to alleviate the degree of worry of the citizenry affected by the flood. 


Corporate image and corporate reputation, though sometimes considered as concepts having same meaning, are actually different concepts. Even though corporate image and corporate reputation are judged from the perspectives of the observers, the two terms have slightly different meanings. Corporate image, for an instance, is that mental picture that usually springs up at the mention of an organization’s/company’s name (Business Dictionary, n.d.). It must be noted that corporate image is “a composite psychological impression that continually changes with the firm’s circumstances, media coverage, performance, pronouncements, etc. Similar to a firm’s reputation or goodwill, it is the public perception of the firm rather than a reflection of its actual state or position” (Business Dictionary, n.d.). It is not like corporate identity. This can be argued by citing the fact that unlike corporate identity, corporate image is fluid and flexible in nature and it can change overnight from positive to negative to a neutral one (Business Dictionary, n.d.). It is noteworthy that large firms often employ various corporate promotional and advertisement strategies and techniques in order to enhance their public image so that their desirability among the consumer segments can be enhanced. It should be taken into account that (for example) “The image of Apple computer…as a successful business has dimmed and brightened several times in the last 30 years. But its identity (conveyed by its name and muticolored bitten-off-apple logo) as an innovative and pathbreaking firm has survived almost intact during the same period” (Business Dictionary, n.d.). Corporate reputation, on the other hand, “emanates from all of the business activities and communications a company has, either intentionally or unintentionally, undertaken in its marketplace” (Forum Research, 2018). Corporate reputation is the perspective that stakeholders to the firm have towards the firm in terms of the firm’s performance, its CSR performance, etc. Moreover, corporate reputation is directly related to a firm’s potential to earn revenue and to keep hold on its markets. In this respect one must take into account the fact that, “By understanding both the commonalities and differences across stakeholder groups, a company will be well positioned to maximize the return on its performance and communication improvement efforts. This, in turn, can influence stakeholder loyalty, a key influence of business success” (Forum Research, 2018). 




If I would have been the CEO of BP I would have taken a thoroughly different stance. I would have come out of the corporate shell and expose my own feelings and emotions to the public through the media. Applying proper public relations strategies, I would have let the stakeholders know that I was really worried about the outcome of the disasters that was caused by the spillage of the oil. The CEO of BP did not have any proper plan or goal or objective in the context of initiating the public relations strategies. But I would have taken a different step. I would have really developed a clear plan and objective about how to deal with the issue in a proper way. I would have created a clear PR strategy with proper objective to face the public in a positive manner. I would have identified the target audience in a proper way. I would have prioritized the public and segmented them according to their level of importance. I would have targeted those communities, individuals and groups who had the power of alleviating the degree of the outcome of the disaster in a specific manner. Communication and continuous communication would have been my primary target as a CEO striving for alleviating the degree of risk that had been the outcome of the oil spillage disaster. Being the CEO having the objective of properly communicating the information to the public I should have identified the target audience, should have researched their behaviours including research on subjects like what publications they read and how they consumer media (Pollard, 2017). By defining the target audience I would have been able to tailor my communication to suit their behaviours and this would have increased the effectiveness of my PR strategy (Pollard, 2017). And the aforesaid would have been the steps that I would have taken in terms of combating the situation. 

6.   a.

The two aforesaid terms ‘corporate image’ and ‘corporate reputation’ are two distinct concepts although sometimes they are considered to have similar meaning by the observers they are not synonymous terms at all. To start with the term ‘corporate image’, it can be defined that this term is more appropriate while a mental picture springs up in visualization when the name of an organization or a company is mentioned ( Business Dictionary, n.d.). As found in the Business Dictionary, the corporate image can be explained as a “composite psychological impression” which is ever changing with the performance report of the company, the coverage that media projects about it and of course the changing infrastructure etc. hence, it can be said that this term much defines the public image of the company or in other words explain the market reputation or goodwill rather than its true position or state (Business Dictionary, n. d.). Hence, it should be noted that corporate image is a factor that may change overnight from positive to negative and vice versa which leads to the idea that corporate image cannot be considered as a true identity of an organization or company. Nowadays many organizations are making intense effort to manoeuvre various promotional strategies and advertisement techniques to heighten their market image to invoke enhanced desirability among the hearts of the consumers. To explain through example, we may site the instance of Apple computer. Although Apple have been indomitable in their business for last 30 years, yet they have never changed their logo (a bitten off coloured apple) as they know that the logo held the symbol of age long faith of being an innovative and path breaking firm, and they have survived all adversaries having their reputation intact within this period of 30 years (Business Dictionary, n. d.). While looking on the other side, “emanates from all of the business activities and communications a company, either intentionally or unintentionally, undertaken in its marketplace” (Forum Research, 2018).
The faith and trust that the stakeholders nurture regarding a firm or an organization in terms of performance, CSR performance, investment etc is entirely considered as the corporate reputation. Thus, corporate reputation can be directly interconnected with the organization’s potential to earn revenues and how it maintains its grip over the market. Hence, it is extremely important to perceive the commonalities and differences about the stakeholders groups, an organization may improve its return on the grounds of performance and communication. This would heighten the level of loyalty of the stakeholders and this is a pivotal factor for any company to gain success and prosperity in business. Whatsoever, it is of utmost significance to take care of corporate reputation in order to run a smooth business with growth and success (Forum Research, 2018).
The basis similarity between corporate image and corporate reputation is that any organization that strives for maintaining a good corporate image should maintain a good market reputation. In case of BP, the Company failed to sustain the parity between its corporate image and its corporate reputation. The oil spillage disaster hampered its reputation and this affected largely its corporate image. The corporate image of a company can only be sustained positively if the company can sustain its market reputation and hence, it can be said that the basic similarity between corporate image and corporate reputation is the positive perspective that the public hold about a particular organization. 

6     b.

In my view BP Oil is an unethical organization that has failed to sustain its corporate image and market reputation. I should use the words unethical and irresponsible to describe BP because the Company’s leadership never took that ideal step that was needed to convince the public that what the Company was doing to mitigate the problem was ethical and justifiable. In this respect one must take into account the fact that “Ironically, BP has been criticized widely for their safety standards and business operations. More specifically, the most well-known and devastating oil spill in US history is largely the fault of this powerful oil corporation. In response, BP implemented extensive recovery programs, but the damage had already been done. The environment, wildlife, and local economies of all of the states lining the Gulf of Mexico felt the consequences of millions of barrels of oil being released into the ocean” (Howard, 2012). The organization’s leadership should have improved its PR strategies and its communication processes should have been transparent and clear. But the leadership failed to do so and hence, the Company’s unethical image was amplified.  


It should be said that in case of handling the post-disaster situations the leadership of any organization should stick to a particularly well planned PR strategy. It was observed that how the difference in approach between the leadership of BP case and the flood case demarcated the qualities of good leaders. It must be noted that the two case studies proved the fact that PR strategy plays a crucial role in any kind of risk or disaster management. Hence, leaders must be equipped with the right PR strategies that they could administer and implement in the right manner at the right time. 


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