BP Oil Spill: When Crisis Management is Compounded by Social Media

I had the privilege of guest lecturing in Bill Imada’s graduate class at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (my alma mater). The title of the class — JOUR 568– is Critical Thinking and Crisis Management and I was asked to demonstrate the importance of social media in crisis communications and to present a case study. Well it turned out not being so much of a lecture — or even a case study for that matter — as it was a critical review of BP’s [lack of] response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010 and the ensuing oil spill that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 3 months unchecked.

Click through to the videos in the presentation. Especially BP Spills Coffee. Riotous, no? But there’s truth to every bit of the parody. While BP was too focused on its record-breaking earnings and deflecting blame, it needed to address the reality of what was — and is — a very human tragedy in the eyes and on the active social networks of the public. And BP was way too late to that game.

The U.S. government just approved the first permit for deep-water drilling in the gulf since the disaster and there remains no known fix should history repeat itself. But our consumer culture didn’t get to where it is today out of an abundance of caution. This is where crisis management runs counter to traditional public relations. Organizations cannot wait to get involved on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, they must be proactively engaging and listening to their audiences. Sometimes communication is the only viable regulation.

10 Ways Geolocation is Changing the World

This post was written by Rob Reed. He is the founder of MomentFeed, a location-based marketing, strategy, and technology firm.

Location technologies are transforming how we experience, navigate, and ultimately better our world. From the global to the local, here are #10Ways geolocation is a positive force for good.

Social media has changed the world. It has revolutionized communications on a global scale, and the transformation continues with every status update, blog post, and video stream. The global citizenry has become a global network.

Since becoming widely adopted just a couple years ago, social media has supercharged social action, cause marketing, and social entrepreneurship. Indeed, the true value hasn’t been the technology itself but how we’ve used it. Today, a second wave of innovation is defining a new era and setting the stage for change over the coming decade.

Mobile technologies will extend the global online network to anyone with a mobile device while enabling countless local networks to form in the real world. We’ve decentralized media production and distribution. We’re doing the same for energy. And we’ll continue this trend for social networking, social action, and commerce.

The combined forces of smartphones, mobile broadband, and location-aware applications will connect us in more meaningful ways to the people, organizations, events, information, and companies that matter most to us—namely, those within a physical proximity of where we live and where we are. Can location-based services (LBS) change the world? Here are #10Ways:

1. Checking in for Good: If Gowalla and Foursquare have taught us anything, it’s that people respond to simple incentives. By offering badges, mayorships, and other intangible rewards, millions of people are checking in to the places they go. Apps like Whrrl take this a step further and enable like-minded “societies” to form on a local basis. The next step is for these apps to add greater purpose by encouraging more meaningful checkins and offering corresponding badges and stamps, thus mapping the cause universe. Or for a dedicated app to be developed that rewards conscious consumption, social responsibility, and civic engagement. Yes, the CauseWorld app features a cause element, but it’s not about cause-worthy places.

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The Human Toll of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion

deepwater horizon fire photo by U.S. Coast Guard

CNN.com has an excellent photoessay documenting the experiences of the survivors and of some of the 11 killed in the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which spawned the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Sixty days later, oil continues gushing from the ultra-deep well up to 6 miles beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

But what about the human toll? It’s not just the eleven lives lost in the tragedy and the many suffering as a result.

A huge portion of the Gulf Coast population is in some way connected to the oil industry as a way of life beyond the 20 percent working in the energy industry and those in the oyster and fishing industry affected by the spill. President Obama has called for an end to offshore oil exploration. But what are the alternatives? Many more jobs will be lost as a result of this disaster and the policies that result from it. It’s important that those distressed as a result receive adequate compensation. But it’s equally important that new jobs are created and that a culture that is very much rooted in the offshore oil industry is given the appropriate tools to transition into new ways of life. Where is the funding for clean energy plants and new, green construction in the Gulf? Where is the incentive for companies to establish themselves in the Gulf and commit to new projects that will lead to such employment?

As my dear friend Sloane reminded me yesterday: If you really want to know how the population is affected by the disaster, watch the local news.

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