On the long road back from a crippling crisis that won’t end


Much of our discussion in these posts focuses on quickly and effectively extracting yourself from a crisis by rapidly delivering facts and transparency while taking responsibility for mistakes.

Then there is the crisis that’s so immense it inundates all you do and never seems to end. Like BP and 5-Hour Energy.

BP is well-known, but yesterday it accepted a $4 billion fine for its July 2010 oil spill and saw three top employees criminally indicted. That’s a really bad day.  

5-Hour Energy faces a more recent, but just as catastrophic crisis. The FDA is investigating if contents of its drink, which the company declines to define, may be responsible for 13 deaths of younger users. The interview with founder and CEO Manoj Bhargava on CBS Evening News last night was devastating.

These are overwhelming crises. If 5-hour Energy doesn’t lose one-third to one-half of its sales, it’s only because its target market tends not to pay much attention to mainstream media. On the other hand, if that target audience communicates about these charges virally via social media, the product could disappear. It’s that bad.

Who is going to risk death to use the stimulating beverage when there are so many other caffeine-intense alternatives?

British Petroleum has been forced to advertise that the Gulf of Mexico “is back.” It has also done tons of testimonial advertising about the company’s and its employees’ commitment to the region and making it whole again. But months of those ads evaporate when the Justice Department indicts three executives on criminal charges and the company pleads guilty to 14 other criminal counts, including manslaughter. On top of that, it pays the largest fine in U.S. history for corporate criminal activity. And it still faces civil lawsuits that will likely dwarf this settlement.

Sometimes a crisis is so extensive that it becomes an unending nightmare and all you can do is hope you’ll wake up from it one day.

BP knows that situation well; 5-Hour Energy is about to learn all about it.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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