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This assessment is based on a short article that reviews the BP Oil Case Study and the Queensland floods (this article can be found on Moodle).

The purpose of this assessment is to apply public relations theory and principles to these two case studies and prepare a report. Use the article on Moodle as a starting point. You are required to read the public relations literature on both cases, as well as peer review scholarly articles and your textbook (see Reference List in Unit Outline), before attempting to answer each of the following questions.

  1. Identify the publics in the BP and Queensland floods case studies?
  1. Segment and Prioritise (identify the Publics?
  1. What different approaches were adopted by the leaders in the two cases?
  1. Define corporate image. How does it differ from corporate reputation?
  1. If you had been the CEO of BP what different strategies and tactics would you have adopted?
Questions:

‘Publics’ is a term used for denoting the group of individuals who hold similar interest having a common opinion over a subject of controversy (Canfield, 1968). In the given case study, publics are such individuals who had been impacted in a negative manner due to the devastating floods which resulted in loss of thirty five lives, in instance of the Queensland floods. Even though an erstwhile UK company in the case of BP caused the devastation, there were American politicians who were responsible for the regulatory approvals and for overseeing the operations related to the deep water drilling. In this instance, methane gas was released in drilling rig, which later on ignited owing to oil leak and resulted in death of 11 people. The highly toxic dispersant which had been used resulted in this havoc and later on caused health issues in the neighbouring areas (Moodle, 2017).

The publics in case of BP were the contractors, stakeholders of company, employees who died and their dependent families, customers, employees, insurance companies, oil industry, marine ecosystem, environmentalist, equity market, individuals dependent on marine life like fishermen, and the US government. In case of Queensland floods, the ‘publics’ were the mining industry, livestock, government, insurance and banking industry, fishermen, the ones who lost their life and their dependent families, and transport.

In both of these incidents, inconvenience was caused to both the internal and the external publics. The ones who were affected in the BP case, for the purpose of prioritising the segments, were the ones who were the internal parts of the BP Company, along with such individuals who were in the immediate external periphery and this group included the employees who died, the ones who were in the frontline, fishing community, dependent family members, financial institutes, top project management, business associates, media, local and federal government, administration officials, action groups, stakeholders, ecosystem surrounding the place of accident, and most importantly, the customers and the general public. In this instance, the ‘publics’ can be prioritized to the extent of the responsibility taken by the company based on the extent of damage caused. The ‘publics’ which were linked to the harmful effects of the dispersed toxic where the population from the nearby regions which suffered from chest pain, headaches, and vomiting, in addition to the damage caused to their internal organs.

In the case of Queensland floods, the incident took place because of acts of the nature. The ones who were affected in the Queensland floods case, for the purpose of prioritising the segments, were the ones who were the inhabitants of the area which was affected by the floods, the infrastructure, industry, farming community and the local market. The very first group which was impacted due to this flooding was the residents of this place. However, as this was an act of god, not much concern was raised from the general public. This was coupled with the timely decision of the leadership in control to divert the population to ensure that the loss was minimized. There was proper and timely execution of the resilient plans for combating with the outcome of such floods due to the government adopted measures. They ensured safe evacuation of the people who had been abandoned; they provided the people with proper accommodation, medication aid and food, which further helped in the negative impact of the act of god being, reduced (Moodle, 2017).  

Case Study

In order for a leader to inspire and motivate his team, he needs to possess the qualities which are ethical, and makes use of such words which keep the team motivated. A key part of this is that the leader has to show the same trust on his team members as the team members have on their leader. When faced with an adverse situation, be it for natural reasons or for the man made ones, the leader is required to be composed and adopt strategic management. The main test for any leader is in the time of crisis (Collins, 2014).

In the case of BP, Hayward was the leader who had to take up the aforementioned role but his behaviour at the time of crisis was inappropriate. He claimed before the media that he wanted his life back, instead of addressing the concerns of the stakeholders at the time of the crisis. This was ultimately disadvantageous for him as he was replaced, due to him causing harm to the stakeholders and company. The theory and practice of public relation were emphasized upon the significance of communication during the emergency situation. In this case, the blame game approach, apology and avoidance of questions were used which showed the unplanned approach. Instead of taking up the responsibility for the crisis, Hayward tried to distance himself from this incident (Moodle, 2017).

In the case of Queensland floods, the approach used by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was contrasting to the one adopted by Hayward (Moodle, 2017). In Queensland’s case, the government adopted a low risk taking behaviour. However, the flood alleviation work was undertaken with ineffective approach, there was lack of proper communication with the climate condition; there was an improper infrastructure development which made the resilience to flood damage a failure. For handling the crisis, ecological approach was used but unstructured methods were adopted for this purpose.

Corporate image refers to the collective cognitive, visual and emotional associations which are held for an organization by the general public. On the other hand, corporate reputation refers to the collective ideas which are held by the public regarding the organization. Even though these two terms appear to be the same, there is quite a difference between the two (Spacey, 2016).

Corporate reputation relates to the ideas and included in this is the manner in which the business is perceived by the customers, partners, regulators, employees and communities. This is quite far from the likeliness of the customers in choosing their brand from the shelf. An example of this is the reputation of a company for the financial stability and corporate governance which impacts the ability of attracting partners and the cost of capital (Spacey, 2016). Corporate identity is about the manner in which the target audience perceives the business. It acts as the personality off the business in transmission of the particular emotion or vibe to the people. It helps in the purpose of creating brand awareness which makes it easier for the people in identifying a business in a convenient manner (Chakraborty, 2014).  

Purpose:

Corporate image, on the other hand, is majorly focused upon the marketing, and included in this are the factors like brand recognition, along with the feeling associated with the experience of the consumer. Corporate image is more about the emotional and visual appeal instead of being about the ideas. At certain instances, the consumers are less likely to be influenced by the reputation factors like financial stability instead of image factors like the stylish design (Spacey, 2016). This refers to the manner in which the business is perceived by the audience. It is usually referred to the accepted image of exactly what the business stands for. There are different ways for building corporate image and these include mission statement, training, corporate identity tools and promotion (Chakraborty, 2014).

The corporate reputation is focused on communities, employees, customers, media, partners, and regulators; whilst corporate image is focused on media and customers. The scope of the former is ideas, beliefs and opinions; whilst the latter one is focused on these three and on concepts, emotional impressions and visual symbols (Spacey, 2016).  

The BP case of deep water explosion was a combination of mistakes which had been undertaken way before the actual incident took place. This situation should have been handled in a better manner by the individuals involved in the PR of this incident and they should have adopted the care regarding the information which was being made available to the media, along with the other people. The warning which had been given to the company had been ignored and a blame game was adopted, along with deploying faulty blow out preventer. The key area of BP was their focus upon profit and cutting of costs, which resulted in overlooking of the prediction of explosion, in addition to avoiding the adoption of precautionary measures.

In case I had been the CEO of BP, I would have adopted thee proactive measures for the purpose of combating the situation which took place. I would also have been more vigilant regarding the information which was flowing out of the company. I would have ensured that the administration, media, rescue team, stakeholders and the employees of the team were proper given instructions, taken proper care of and given proper information. If I had made the media announcements, they would have been very compassionate and also apologizing instead of being misleading or ignorant. Based on the cultural nuances, I would have deployed care by being responsible in terms of cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness. As a CEO, I would also have been cautious so that such situations are never repeated and only such risk is taken which is properly calculated and where the pros and cons are thoroughly analysed. I would make sure that the lives of the employees are not put in any kind of danger. There is a need for having trustworthy and vigilant teams to be created so as to allow for them to be properly equipped and prepared for the varied emergency situations. Instead of camouflaging the information of the company, the company needs to open its eyes to the reality and the gravity of the incident, and need to come up as being responsible instead of running away from the situation.

(a)

Tasks:

Corporate image, as has been stated earlier, is the mental picture which is formed regarding the company, based on the insight about the company which an individual has. Corporate reputation is the public picture of the organization which defines the qualities and abilities of it. Even when the image of the company is good, the reputation could be bad in the public. In public relations, by deploying conscious efforts like social media and mass media, a good corporate image can be created. An image is built and maintained by the company, for creating an impression in the target audience mind which helps in the creation and maintenance of an association in between the customer and the company which is based on goodwill and consumer satisfaction. A positive corporate image takes time in creation. Corporate reputation is fragile and can be affected easily (Carroll, 2015).

In essence, corporate image and corporate reputation are quite similar. Corporate image is basically the cognitive image of an individual which they draw regarding an organization based on the information which has been gathered about the company. Corporate reputation in a crux refers to the ability and quality of the organization. A careful analysis of the two terms shows hat drawing a line between the two is very difficult. The social media is used as a powerful took for the purpose of crafting the positive company images. By putting these together in a manner which is interesting, the company can look attractive and where something goes wrong, it spoils the entire thing. Thus, there is a need to make use of corporate identity, business communications and interpersonal relationships in a careful manner and this is referred to as the pragmatic operational model (Carroll, 2015).

In context of the BP case, their run for the publicity resulted in them losing their reputation, which had been built by the company over a number of years. BP had made a lot of efforts in recreating its image in the minds of the public where they wanted to forgo the British part and emerge as a global company. But the emphasis of BP being British for blaming the entire incident on them, where the fault of American organizations was also involved, showed the failure of company in maintaining its image as a global company BP, instead of being a British company. The failure of BP in saving its corporate reputation by failed crisis communication further impacted its corporate image. Thus, there was a similarity between corporate image and corporate reputation in case of BP where their unfortunate actions caused damage to their image and reputation.   

When it comes to disasters made by companies, the first incident which comes to mind is the Bhopal gas tragedy. In this, the Union Carbide had to bear the brunt of its failure in keeping the proper measures to avoid the incident, which resulted in Bhopal Gas Tragedy in India. Due to this incident, over five lac individuals were exposed to the dangerous gas which resulted deaths of hundreds and also caused injuries (Walters, 2009). Its ill-effects continued to show even after years of actual incident taking place. It has been categorized as the worst industrial disaster of the world. As a result of this incident, a number of cases were made against the company. This led to millions being awarded in compensation to the victims due to the court cases, and also resulted in conviction of the employees of the company of that time (Mukherjee, 2016).

This incident led to a negative image of the company being formed due to the magnitude of the disaster and in the company failing to learn from its past mistakes. Just a few days before the actual incident, a gas leak had taken place, which had been ignored by Union Carbide. In case the company taken care, such a disaster for the company could have been avoided (Baofu, 2011).  This led to the image of the company being ruined so much so that it continues to put the company in negative image. This incident was not something which was an act of god, and so, the same could have been avoided had the company adopted proper image. The company was thus focused on just the profits and could be best defined as unethical and immoral.

On the basis of the discussion carried on in the previous segments, it can be concluded that public relations is an important aspect for each and every company, despite the location in which they carry on their business. The discussion highlighted the different aspects which have to be taken care of when an accident takes place, irrespective of whether the incident had been caused due to man-made incident or due to the act of god. The focus of the discussion was on the two incidents of BP case and the Queensland flooding, which resulted in deaths and injuries to a number of individuals, along with harming the ones in the proximity of the floods. The incidents undertaken had a negative impact over the image of the company and charred the reputation of BP for a long period.

References

Baofu, P. (2011). The Future of Post-Human Chemistry: A Preface to a New Theory of Substances and their Changes. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Canfield, B. R. (1968). Public relations; principles, cases, and problems. RD Irwin.

Carroll, C.F. (2015). The handbook of communication and corporate reputation (Vol. 49). John Wiley & Sons.

Chakraborty, R. (2014). How to Differentiate Corporate Identity from Corporate Image. Retrieved from: https://www.webguru-india.com/blog/how-to-differentiate-corporate-identity-from-corporate-image/

Collins, J. (2014). Leadership Qualities: Qualities of a Good Leader. Createspace Independent Pub.

Moodle. (2017) Case Study. Retrieved from: https://model.ee.edu.au/elearning/moodle/pluginfile.php/16554/mod_resource/content/1/Case%20Study.pdf

Mukherjee, S. (2016). Surviving Bhopal: Dancing Bodies, Written Texts, and Oral Testimonials of Women in the Wake of an Industrial Disaster. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Spacey, J. (2016). Corporate Reputation vs Corporate Image. Retrieved from: https://simplicable.com/new/corporate-reputation-vs-corporate-image

Walters, R. (2009). Bhopal, Corporate Crime and Harms of the Powerful. Global Social Policy, 9(3).

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