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i-Spy #1: BP’s PR Mess in the Gulf Coast

September 10, 2010

Crisis: It has been nearly five months since the onset of BP’s Gulf Coast oil disaster, and the company responsible has yet to get a firm handle on the situation. Despite spending millions of dollars on ads and the employment of a nationally-respected public relations firm, BP’s PR efforts have been ultimately unsuccessful. 

Principle: “Realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people” and “Tell the truth.” 

I believe that the failure of BP’s crisis management PR can be attributed to at least two fundamental mistakes:

1.)   Lack of corporate and executive sincerity (Realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people” )

2.)   Failure to get ahead of the story and effectively manage information (“Tell the truth”)

Lack of corporate and executive sincerity:

In a brief interview with NBC soon after the accident, BP C.E.O. Tony Hayward said that “there’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do.  You know, I’d like my life back.”  Something tells me that if the C.E.O. of a company responsible for the deaths of 11 men, the destruction of an entire ecosystem and the loss of thousands of jobs is complaining about how he wants HIS life back, he lacks empathy and genuine concern for the region that his company devastated.

Even though several BP executives have appeared in videos posted on the company’s website, there has been little to no effort made by the executives to roll up their sleeves and help out directly with the cleanup process.  While it may be nice to watch a V.P. standing on a dock in front of a beautiful ocean-side vista in a carefully constructed advertisement, the public needs to see the decision-makers and company management working shoulder-to-shoulder with other Gulf Coast residents if BP wants its apologetic videos to be taken seriously.

Failure to get ahead of the story and effectively manage information:

            BP’s crisis response strategies for the oil spill will probably appear in future PR textbooks as the golden example of what NOT to do when your company is responsible for the destruction of an entire coastal region. 

Some of BPs crisis PR mistakes:

  • Rather than directing its initial resources and efforts to fixing the leak and protecting the Gulf Coast, BP made a priority to buy up spill-related search terms search engine and video websites in order to intercept any public inquiries of the situation.  BP also purchased ad space in most major newspapers and television networks in an attempt to prevent the media from asking the tough questions that could hurt BP’s reputation.
  • Even though BP had a live stream of the oil leak since the initial burst in the pipe, it denied access of the video feed to the press, government and scientific organizations.  With the live feed, scientists would have been able to better estimate the amount of crude oil escaping from the well and use that information to help create a solution for the leak.  However, it wasn’t until direct government intervention that the video feed was made available to the public.
  • Right from the get go, the C.E.O downplayed the event’s potential impact on the region as “minimal” without having any type of accurate information to back up his statements.  This set himself up for pretty much any scientist or expert to prove him wrong (which they did). Reporters and spectators hoping to witness the initial cleanup efforts were sent away by BP officials, simply because BP wanted to downplay the severity of the spill.

In an interview with MSNBC, PR expert Brian Dobson said “the best way to handle crisis public relations is to utilize the facts. Get out ahead of the story and manage it, because if you don’t, then you chase it.”   BP was clearly unable to manage its information about the spill from the get go and had to chase the story.  In order to repair its relations with Gulf Coast residents and the nation at large, BP must redesign its overall PR strategy in a way that incorporates Page’s principles of telling the truth and expressing the company’s character through its people

Question for the Class:  If you were a Gulf Coast resident, what kind of actions or efforts would you like to see from BP?   Would it be possible for BP to gain or regain your trust and favor?

Here’s a great recap and analysis of the situation on The Alyona Show”


10 Useful Usability Studies and Guidelines for Web Design

May 5, 2010

Stumble-upon did me a favor today when it hooked me up with this useful blog post regarding how to increase a webpage’s usability.  Several of these studies fall under the neuromarketing category (a personal interest of mine) and can apply to advertisements (or any visual piece for that matter) as well.  I’ll be sure to keep some of these tidbits in mind when I begin my position as a creative executive at Live Oak Communications in the fall!

Here’s one helpful design tidbit:

2. Users Focus On Faces

People instinctively notice other people right away when they come into view. On Web pages, we tend to focus on people’s faces and eyes, which gives marketers a good technique for attracting attention. But our attraction to people’s faces and eyes is only the beginning; it turns out we actually glance in the direction the person in the image is looking in.

Eyes1 in 10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines
Eye-tracking heat map of a baby looking directly at us, from the UsableWorld study.

Eyes2 in 10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines
And now the baby is looking at the content. Notice the increase in people looking at the headline and text.

Here’s an eye-tracking study that demonstrates this. We’re instinctively drawn to faces, but if that face is looking somewhere other than at us, we’ll also look in that direction. Take advantage of this phenomenon by drawing your users’ attention to the most important parts of your page or ad.

6-Month Exposure: Photo of the sun

May 5, 2010

Taken from

Six months. That’s right. This dream-like picture shows each phase of the sun over Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge taken during half a year.

The image was captured on a pin-hole camera made from an empty drinks can with a 0.25mm aperture and a single sheet of photographic paper.

Photographer Justin Quinnell strapped the camera to a telephone pole overlooking the Gorge, where it was left between December 19, 2007 and June 21, 2008–the Winter and Summer solstices. (That’s a 15,552,000 second exposure.)

‘Solargraph’ shows six months of the sun’s luminescent trails and its subtle change of course caused by the earth’s movement in orbit. The lowest arc being the first day of exposure on the Winter solstice, while the top curves were captured mid-Summer.

(Dotted lines of light are the result of overcast days when the sun struggled to penetrate the cloud.)

Quinnell, a renowned pin-hole camera artist, says the photograph took on a personal resonance after his father passed away on April 13–halfway through the exposure. He says the picture allows him to pinpoint the exact location of the sun in the sky at the moment of his father passing.

Can you believe thats an actual photograph! Looks like a painting!


Wine Bottle Designs

May 5, 2010

During my daily stumble-upon sesh, I came across a page displaying a bunch of award-winning wine bottle lable designs.  Check ’em out cuz they’re pretty cool!

Here are a few of my favorites

Research Ideas

May 4, 2010

In class today, my professor told us about Elon’s Lumen Scholar program and how to apply.  The recipient is given $15,000 to help fund a research project in the field of communications. 

If I were to apply, I would investigate the relatively new field of consumer analytics, known as “neuromarketing.”  Neuromarketing fuses neuroscience and marketing in order to “tap into” the subconscious consumer mind.  By using advanced brain imaging and biometric technology, researchers are able to measure and analyze a person’s physiological responses to the specific external stimuli (sounds, images, smells, etc) commonly found in advertisements.  With this information, advertisers can fine-tune their ads and campaigns so that they elicit the greatest possible emotional response and cognitive/subliminal interest from the consumer…which would then hopefully translate into higher sales!

I would research the future of neuromarketing and how it may one day become not just a tool, but the very bread and butter of the advertising/marketing industries.

New Web Design (the 2nd picture)

April 27, 2010

My uncle works in marketing for an ATV/Golf Cart company called “Tomberlin,” and the other day I went to their website to check out some of their models.  


I was a little disappointed in the layout and color pallet.  And there were so many things competing for attention I didn’t know where to click first! Compared to Toyota or Kawasaki’s web pages, the Tomberlin site seems a little too “busy.”

In my Digital Media Convergence class, we have started to delve into website design and how to utilize programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Flash animation to create web pages.  With this newly acquired knowledge, I decided to practice these skills by coming up with a new design for the Tomberlin site. 



 I’m hoping that once I’ve completed a more detailed mock-up, I might be able to show it to my uncle and maybe one day put the new design into action! 

Anyways, here’s a little YouTube gem I figured I should share with you (probably my favorite videos of all time).  Enjoy!  

DMC Final Project Votes

April 21, 2010

Picking just two project ideas out of the group is a pretty tall order! Just about all of the ideas were interesting and unique, but if I had two “invest” in two of them, I would choose:

Asha Michelle Wilson
Dan Koch