Exxon/Mobil Mayflower Oil “Leak” Crisis Managment

I chose a message from the Crisis Management campaign done by Exxon/Mobil after the oil “leak” (the EPA classified it as a major spill) in Mayflower, Arkansas. An Exxon pipeline broke and oil came up all over a residential neighborhood. It was quite a crisis that needed to be managed.

It’s clear that with previous oil spills/”leaks” that have occurred in the past, that Exxon is experienced with the process of managing crisis. The first major oil spill they had was in the Prince Charles Sound in Alaska. Since then, they have had quite a few incidents and have probably only improved their ability to respond to crises. (See this wikipedia article for more information).

In the “Persuasive Campaigns” chapter, it discusses what goes into a campaign. First is the planning stage. During this stage, analysis of the audience and topic is done as well as a basic development of a strategy. Next is the mobilization of the various resources needed to enact the various pieces of the campaign. The third step is legitimation, in which the position of the campaign is validated through various means: through its position, by an endorsement, or simply showing power. The next step is promotion. This step promotes the now legitimate campaign. The final step is activation which follows through with the goal of the campaign and has the commitment of the newly persuaded to back it up.

Much of what the “Persuasive Campaigns” chapter talks about with regard to crisis management deals with former President Clinton’s management of the Lewinsky case. It is described as having a few different pieces. The first piece is basically him trying to get the American people on his side. He says things that make us identify with him. The second piece is him accepting responsibility for the incident. He avoids apologizing, but he somewhat explains his reasoning for lying to us. The third piece is him attacking the people who are investigating his private life.

If we try to broaden these three steps, we get something like the following:  step one, attempt to get the audience on your side; step two, take responsibility for any wrong doing; step three, respond to the audience’s reaction. In the Exxon/Mobil message clip, we see these three steps quite clearly. It starts with the operations manager who oversees that pipeline area apologizing “personally.” She goes on to say how she feels for the communities affected by the tragedy.

Almost immediately after she fulfills that first part, she goes on to say how the company takes full responsibility for what has happened. The responsibility accepting phase lasts only one sentence in this short clip. The rest of the message is all about responding to public outcry/feelings on oil spills. They are talking up how hard they are working to get everything cleaned up. They mention how they know they harmed the environment and what steps they are taking to mitigate that danger. They also acknowledge the displacement of that residential area and what they are doing to expedite the residents’ return to their homes.


Nicholas Westerhausen

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