PR Events at Sea

Jun 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Israel, News

Ordinarily I would have waited a few more blogs to explore the issue of crisis management. Two events have come up this past week however, that have compelled me to bring up the topic. The first was the Flotilla, and how the Israeli government handled (or mishandled) itself in the eyes of the world. The second was the major find of additional gas reserves off the Haifa coast.

Regarding the first event, much has been written and discussed with regards to the Flotilla. This event is not the main focus of this blog since I do not wish to delve into political issues. Needless to say it has raised many discussions about the “crisis communication” that resulted. It has also made me question, yet again as I did in one of my previous blogs, whether Israeli corporate and high-tech companies have a deeper understanding of reputation management and crisis communications?

The second event making major headlines this week has been the fact that Israel may become an energy exporter. Given the events from the rest of this week, this news item seemed to have been placed secondary in importance in the press. To me however, this seems to be short of an absolute miracle. In fact, Yitzchak Tshuva said there are more than 100 years worth of reserves at Leviathan and that there may even be signs of oil in the region as well.

Another event, not relating directly to Israelis but also occurring in the ‘deep blue’ that has made almost daily headlines here and elsewhere has been BP’s oil spill disaster off the Gulf of Mexico. The once-upon-a-time, “eco-friendliest big oil company’ has taken a major fall. Like that of Exxon (which we used as a case study when I was studying PR all those years ago), the case of BP will be used for years to come to teach PR students across the globe.

One aspect of the crisis communications amongst BP that keeps coming up is the issue of transparency. BP made a video of the ruptured oil well available almost immediately. Crisis communications expert Chris Lehane said “People evaluate you in terms of how you handle things going forward…Obviously doing everything to be open, transparent, accessible is the type of thing that the public does look for from a corporate entity in this type of situation… The challenge for [BP] was that they weren’t necessarily open, transparent and accessible with everything else.” As another crisis expert, Gene Grabowski, chair of crisis and litigation practice at Levich Strategic Communications commented on Fortune “When we heard stories about the folks from BP trying to manage the crisis, we saw no human faces.”

There are many corporate PR lessons to be learned from recent local political and world events. The first and most critical rule of all however is: “Have an adequate crisis communications plan in place.” It seems that BP’s crisis plan fell very short, if it existed at all. Let’s hope that now, as Israel moves into the world of energy exporting, both its political and corporate leaders have in fact discovered this important directive from recent mistakes. As Mark Twain said “The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.”

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