For years a myth has plagued those who work in the media relations/public relations industry that “any press is good press.” Yet the idea that any news is good news for the publicity of a company or person has been proven untrue by many examples of publicity gone wrong. In July of 2011, the Atlantic News Paper ran a story discussing the ten companies that were “burned” worst by bad publicity.
The number one company on their list was global gas and oil company,BP, whose Deepwater Horizon oil spill was described as, “the largest public relations disaster in corporate history.” This incident in 2010 was the largest oil spill the industry had ever seen, and after viewing the devastation that ravaged marine life and human industries along the Gulf Coast,the infuriated citizens of the Gulf Coast states looked to BP.
The oil spill itself was horrendous enough but the response from the corporate heads at BP was simply insulting to all those affected by the tragedy. Not only did officials from BP refuse to take responsibility for the accident, they also put the blame on the individuals who were drilling and the contractors who were in their employment. As images of birds covered in oil struggling to fly on Louisiana beaches were splashed across national newspapers, the officials at BP continued to deny their part on the tragedy. As a result of their response BP received a huge, negative backlash of public opinion who saw the company as apathetic and uncaring.
When working in public relations it is important to distinguish between good publicity and bad publicity. As BP learned, the axiom “all press is good press,” is clearly false. More citizens are able to access news at a faster rate than ever before, and it is essential for companies to not only tell the truth but accept responsibility during times of crisis. In an age where information is readily accessible by any person with a computer, television or smart phone, it is necssary for companies to be forthcoming, responsible and above all truthful and honest.