BP's Deepwater Horizon Accident in 2010

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BP's Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 was one of the worst environmental disasters in history, and was also a public relations catastrophe for the company. This case demonstrates that corporate communications and public relations usually function well enough in routine situations, but tend to break down during crises and catastrophes. With BP's Gulf oil spill, just as with the meltdown of TEPCO's nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, and the ongoing bribery and corruption scandal at Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp that occurred at roughly the same time, the businesses concerned suffered from a disastrous loss in public trust and confidence and severe damage to their image and reputation. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) went bankrupt and ended up being nationalized by the Japanese government, while BP's CEO Tony Hayward was forced to resign. In all these kinds of crises, the businesses concerned not only faced adverse publicity, but public criticism by politicians and government officials, criminal investigations and tremendous civil liabilities. In addition, the Gulf oil spill resulted in loss of life and great damage to the environment and public health. Hayward became notorious for his public relations gaffes and misstatements, so much so that he did severe and permanent damage to the reputation of his company. BP's stock valuation fell by nearly $100 billion in three months, Congress and public opinion were outraged, and a moratorium on deep-water drilling was put in place. In

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