Lessons From the BP Oil Spill

Eight ways to reconnect after a disaster.

August 05, 2010
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7. Couple your communication with action.

You can provide people with the best communication possible, but if you don’t also back up that communication with action, you won’t get anywhere.

“This point might be a bigger struggle for the government than BP,” says Kuzmeski. “Obama’s talking about how angry he is isn’t enough.” Anger must be coupled with action, she says. The announcement that the president negotiated a $20 billion payout from BP helped. You can’t be all show and no go, she adds. You have to have clear communication followed by activity.

“Johnson & Johnson serves as another good example here,” adds Kuzmeski. “After the Tylenol scare, it communicated to the public that it was taking responsibility for what happened. Then it recalled Tylenol products even though it was a huge cost to the company.”

8. Make the public part of the process.

To connect with people, involve them in the process, she says. When your company is dealing with a disaster, assess who you should collaborate with, who can help you, and how they can help. This shows people you’re working toward solutions, and they become a little army on your side.

“When I consult with companies, I make sure all the decision makers and managers are involved in what’s going on,” says Kuzmeski. “I want everyone in the room together collaborating, because when someone is left out and new initiatives are implemented, they feel like they’re being given directives. But if they feel like they’ve been made a part of the process, they make sure they’re part of the solution.

“The bottom line is BP took a terrible situation, and, via poor communication and mismanagement, made it even worse,” says Kuzmeski. “It’s now much more than an oil spill. It’s about the way people have been treated. It’s about the fact that many people feel they’ve been victimized even further by the way the disaster was handled.”

 To salvage public opinion after a disaster for which your organization is partially or entirely responsible, she says, aim to connect with the public through honest and open communication right away.

“The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. (Wiley, ISBN: 978-0-470-48818-8)

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