The next episode of FIR Live will look at the communication efforts surrounding the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill—the worst in U.S. history. Our guests are…
* Gerald Baron, who authors the Crisisblogger blog and wrote “Now is Too Late 2,” one of the best books available on crisis communication in the digital era. Gerald is a founder and Director of Strategic Services for PIER (Public Information Emergency Response) Systems, a crisis communication technology solution. (PIER Systems was used by BP during the Gulf spill crisis.) Most recently, Gerald wrote the white paper, “Unending Flow: Case Study on Communications in the Gulf Oil Spill.
* Neil Chapman, a BP communicator, was part of BP’s communications response team for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He has been on the communications front line for controversial industrial projects, company takeovers, trading scandals and lobbying campaigns. Neil was the subject of an FIR interview with co-host Neville Hobson earlier this year.
The show—which you’re encouraged to be part of by calling in or participating in the live chat room—is set for Saturday, December 11, at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern and 6 p.m. London.
As always with FIR Live, you can be part of the discussion by calling in to +1.347.324.3723 to ask a question or share your views, or by commenting in the chat room.
On the day of the show, you’ll need to log in to BlogTalk Radio in order to participate in the chat room.
Join us—your questions will ensure that this will be a fascinating conversation!
“Unending Flow” is available for download as a PDF (free) or as a Kindle ebook (for $6.99) after completing a brief form:
United States


00:00:00Los Santos radio
00:00:04greetings everybody and welcome to another episode of f i r live episode number 20 of f i r live this is shell holes in Concord California
00:00:14and this is never helps negotiate boxer in England and we are delighted to have with us and Gerald Baron and a couple of minutes after we get the housekeeping for the lives dimensions and see if I live out of the way we have the ability for you to call in with questions of course we'll start with us some of our own but the number to dial to ask a question is area code 347-324-3723 and we also have to chat room so you go to www.blogtalkradio.com F ir and what's your log 10% sure that that's the chatroom icon and you'll be able to participate in the chat room nobody there yet and nobody called in but that doesn't mean he's listening
00:01:14episode will be posted as an audio file of regular episode of f i r and we are going to be talking about the gulf oil spill and specifically about the communications not going to get into the still at cells and in the consequences but I think a lot of emotions around this issue as with any crisis actually but in particular I think with this one for a variety of reasons is it possible to separate the the emotion but nevertheless fascinating to look at to the communications behind this some sort of detach yourself from the ceiling and look at how this was communicated by multiple organization certainly the communicators didn't make any of the decisions that led to the problem but had to solve it and that's what we'll be talking
00:02:14Gerald you're the author of a 60-page white paper on the communication so it is just fascinating and its scope and will let people know where they can get that white paper later but why don't we start off with the introduction so Neil I think 17 years with the British Petroleum then about to go out on your own but took maybe you could talk a little bit about your background and what your involvement was in the still communication discussion about looking forward to it and then went into it and then naturally yet energy I hope my voice doesn't give away an old bull white-headed craggy salad
00:03:14behind me $0.17 in United States so sweaty British accents sexy most of these prices are they ranged well from helicopter crashes when I was toasted back to UK I had a different job but still in Communications but in a sore back and help with the response I started life and we can talk about what that is
00:04:14in Louisiana
00:04:16I'm dead the jump shifted over time but it started off in the media room and then I was part of the Dodge Lincoln Unified come on did Louisiana became the link between BP in the community relations make sure I got the right people messages and then come back to the agencies that lasted until September
00:05:16that's the one thing I would encourage any communication another need Central Station to Dulles and I would have anyone to look beyond the headlines to really understand the communications so it was really excellent and some of it wasn't the way I just got some good and some bad ugly which is part of the new crises that you have to wait till you have to deal with I think now would we having some issues that were faced
00:06:07Gerald one of the things that jumped out at me and probably would jump out of everybody in your report is that Neil ultimately was one of 60,000 people involved in communication will get into that Gerald which is a system that was used by multiple for multiple purposes and we'll talk more about what does purposes whereabouts of what is p r ins and what's your background in crisis about my background and how that kind of all I've been in the marketing and public relations business here in Northwest Washington for almost 30 years with my own firm about 12 years ago so I became involved with that working with some of the oil company presents in this area and in 1999 there was a large gasoline fuel line
00:07:07that accept that exploded with 3 fatality zand since I was under contract with the managing partner of that pipeline it became involved is the public information officer getting community relations and all that sort of thing that experience and seeing the very great challenges of trying to deal with multiple different communication needs in a joint information center environment I created the pier system in your stance for public information emergency response and it's a web-based communication management system that really puts all the communication functions that a team needs to use a special an ad hoc team in a joint information center environment that they need to use on the web platform so that they can work virtually and and and collaborate with many people you know across multiple agencies so our first client and they have deployed across the country in for over 10 years now has been there exclusive platform for doing all of their public affairs Communications one of our earliest
00:08:07clients was BP so we've been working with BP for about 8 years and certainly are work both in terms of providing a technology and some of the Strategic services and helping prepare are both the Coast Guard and BP put us in a position clearly within the unified command was warmed and this incident occurred to mediately begin working with OPP in the Coast Guard and that's how we became involved in this we had a team of probably about 20 people from our company we were deployed either virtually or to the golf at various locations from Mobile Alabama to the joint information center location in first Robert Louisiana then in downtown New Orleans and so we were very actively engaged yes through the orchard State sites that sell BP continues to use as a primary means of communication with those people most directly affected
00:09:05I should also let everybody know that you wrote a terrific book now is too late to Great Book on crisis communication a basic question that I had an m and that's how prepared was BP for this particular incident As Good As the First Communication communication I am glad you're not the one thing that I always remember not to kick up the garden very early on in the event I'm not always at the Forefront of everyone's mind so
00:10:05how to pad
00:10:07we hold BP holds drills exercises in United States in terms of communication in the question how to dislodge this complex and what was demonstrated was it in many ways intense the operational side ultimately able to so want you to oversleep up we went sightseeing what was an incredible event at the bottom of the sage
00:11:07technically challenging it was was the communications challenge thousands of people impacted thousands of businesses and the electrical the communication the media tsunami that followed Jesus for that with the number of people involved 45 thousand oaks moving 45 is the number I have company in order to see what you just sitting there doing nothing and a whole bunch of people have to come together to deal with
00:12:07even if they were from the same organization they might not work together around the world that should be possible response it's just the shit challenge of practice and I'm just I told the training it was a huge Focus entirely on doing the right thing and helping the people on the gulf providing them as quickly as possible I'm many people I can tell you
00:13:07no but I can tell you in learning about people also the incident people's marriages Family Champion holiday Summers just disappeared family time and energy into wealth and they said they said they saw people with flying asbestos it to the office now ultimately world
00:13:45how is check today so you up however hard you try on the results and of course there are people you say no you didn't do a good job but I wasn't getting go back to that message look Beyond some of the good things and some of the good communication that's why I wanted you to connect and I'll just make a quick comment about the preparation we we worked with a large number of other companies most of the major oil companies other industrial companies education large number of other federal agencies in St Louis I will tell you from our perspective working with multiple different companies there are few I'm organizations that were aware of that were better prepared and that's an important lesson I mean BTW did a lot of things in 10 preparing for an event like this
00:14:45lesson going forward for a lot of agencies ones that I'm talking with now the thinking about preparing for an event has fundamentally changed and one of it is realizing that was what was suffered from here was a lack of imagination anticipation the scale of an event of this magnitude and is about to give him that this event will keep eyes well when the world was eventually I think that was sometime September if I'm not mistaken a story in the UK
00:15:45using a report to write to u.s. president who sang it was anyone else is for lack of communication lack of imagination too much cost of discussion resulting from that and I was paying attention and I don't have number's been quoted the St Francis going to lunch it's what happens on the event itself from the explosion and so and no just no
00:16:45a long time spent and a lot of money spent a little research you know what to do understand the impact on the gulf the environment and beaches to. 500 million dollars in order to the Gulf Coast means it was still facing difficulties around still about 20,000 people they made from the headlines but no it's not it still goes on what what do you what do you think about it what would you say
00:17:45well they say the oil spill it sounds you concluded that this was actually I'm not seeing anyone else saying that Jason told me you stay Club accounting wow you come up here but you said you had people killed well blah blah and millions of gallons of oil flying into the Gulf of Mexico
00:18:45I'm not include see if I come on the joint information center and beat the as well I was there to provide good time the accurate information and I would say the answer has to be on the good to the right audiences now it is and it's going to take a long time and it's only going to be actions will restore its reputation but the purposes
00:19:45well in the Washington post about crisis Communications
00:20:07the Deepwater Horizon e bad I just suddenly one day so it's myself wow I want you to communicate with you how to communicate with each other and the shoot outpouring of involvement Communications in social media wants to volunteer come up with suggestions because of the response because they wouldn't you just sit back that was incredible you were talking about what to come on driving side Jonas article work for most of the oil spill commission report the working papers and just to comment if they're saying that the oil spill was caused by management
00:21:07communication problems the lack of reaction is totally understandable from the beginning of the black cat was on BP and it's nothing you know but they're Falls and their Road corporation that is the the the underlined Black Hat story that from the beginning so it's not surprising that there wasn't a reaction on this communication issues I don't think that working papers were referring to the Public Communication around the oil spill itself I think that they were talking and in those cases about the failures of communication with the MPT as part of the management structure it's sort of like the same issues that came up about terrorism in about you know the underwear bomber about you know what one Department not being able to talk and share information effectively with another so that's my understanding of it I don't think that their criticism of communication was about the spill communication
00:22:07and almost every major event from 9:11 to Katrina to all of these major events one of the major criticism of the media and of the public is lack of information coming from the response and that criticism lots and lots of things are criticized that is one thing that I did not hear very strongly mentioned as a criticism of the positive in terms of the other communication but I think it's important for people in crisis communication and public relations to take from this is in talking to a number of of leaders of other organizations in the last little while I see two reactants and one of them says my goodness BP really screwed this up and we were in a similar situation we would not make those mistakes and therefore we wouldn't have the kind of problem
00:23:07BP is now experiencing this was a PR disaster and that's a line that a lot of PR use that is a much more realistic and valuable reaction yes there were mistakes made but has Neil mentioned you have this amount of oil spill in for this amount of time is beyond PR and the environment that companies are very deep hole in a public trust that you could respond perfectly not made a single mistake and it would not have the very deep hole Darien in terms of reputation and in terms of Crisis management so I think that's really important for people to understand I need to look at the environment and what is going to happen
00:24:07what are responsible for results in the kind of Devastation and damage and loss of life that occurred ear if it isn't this isn't a PR disaster this is a disaster of a of a oil spill that ran for an impressive amount of time and I could think of it differently I think it's going to mislead people on and leave the mistakes frequently decided yet when something terrible has happened to the company that requires NPR activity and it's not necessarily a PR disaster that's just it just a disaster just an emergency but in terms of the communication I do want to spend some time and I'm sure Neville does to on the mistakes and what we can learn from this but let's talk about of the communication because when you look at what's going on you're you're just a consumer or just remember the public your focus on what's being covered
00:25:07from Tony Hayward the CEO for example would be easy and we would consume the news Cycles but in the meantime you were out there the others involved with the white paper that just really highlighted this go put this on virtually every social Channel photos on Flickr videos on YouTube of videos are on YouTube on Twitter multiple websites that there was a website for every state so the information was targeted locally in and I'm sure this is where those 60,000 people who were involved in the communications came in what shall I want to correct that the case study references 60,000 people being involved in the response overall
00:26:07they were probably a few hundred at the most probably about three to four hundred at the most at one particular time and that's probably on the high-level so maybe under 500 people that were probably directly involved in the communications turned it back on so I just I wanted to clarify that point if I can do you level up of interaction is something that I think is really important for people to understand Neil mentioned public participation but September 3rd was the primary website for the response for unified command took a hundred fifty-five million hits received a personal response except under direction of security those who are threatening personal violence did not receive a response there were a hundred and twenty-three thousand response suggestions
00:27:07admitted they were thousands of claims that were processed through the website for example they were 4000 documents that were prepared and distributed Distribution Center tens of thousands of text messages that were distributed and that's not counting social media social media also had an exceptional high level of activity and interaction and the interaction between the primary website and the and the social media was a really important aspect of this you mentioned that he had four states sites they might be launched those in June and if traffic in those ice continues to climb significantly yes it ran off the radar in terms of national media International media coverage it has not run off the radar at all
00:28:07passing out from the very beginning to interact with the communities and the individuals affected very much and they're continuing to do that will do so for for a long time to come the old is Lassie focused on the PS I know where we were hosting the video traffic see the RAV4 sister I'm done with someone from megabytes to men's because of Life footage on the web and then we become became a major Center For What
00:29:07it was aligned with what was available on the unified come on website as well as well you mentioned a live video feed and not that's really significant for people to understand and you mentioned the amount of bandwidth Neil will on one day alone the bandwidth for the live video feeds which we provide it would appear are pure systems provided was 38 terabytes of data for anyone who was looking at band that it that's one day so at the peak there were 12 different videos
00:29:51single liver and where will the conversation where was a lot of the conversation
00:30:38call Linda if you have a question always one of our challenge is getting people to take advantage of the fact that this is a life joke 340-324-3723 that's a u.s. number Surplus one
00:30:55yep we got 3 people in this country like she so this thing which is great so but if you have a question please Gary Rome on this online communication constantly amazed at the salon videos drink it was dramatic and the UK so well that was sweet
00:31:49part of this is the only days I think I was like number 11000 something huge amount of attention that must have been a thorn in your side of New Balances Junior and Alive interview and someone asked me about as I said to them this is what you have to live with now is part of the whole response that you will
00:32:49that's what you decided to do after some reason but the other trouble we decided no of course we with Mom to make sure there's nothing could be misleading and as I said to one of those reports that when I was asked about it and it's easy to raise it and say what you want why didn't you do something there's very little you can do other than say well good time
00:33:49get out to The Rifleman I'll keep messages what we doing about facing
00:34:00sounds I started Lee the company facing these problems is to focus all your assets
00:34:26just saying oh well we don't like this week we think it's bad I job is to focus on fixing the problem just cuz basically keep focused on that and live with some of the things some of the
00:34:52emails coming in and it still said some of them most of them the majority of them received a reply there are others with pretty ugly to engage people and explain to them what you are doing despite that anger emotion
00:35:17just click on the Twitter feed I think I responded absolutely correct but when ABC news story on the guy who launched that I commented on my blog on crisis blogger that now if in the future there's going to be a hundred of these parodies because of the of the notoriety that this guy got and and he said that his his future was going to be to be continuing to do this to call attention to the to the lack of moral standing in these companies and I raised the question that someone hiding behind a parody and not with not being willing to divulge themselves and posing as the company what was the moral standing behind that and he responded by calling you a really nasty name
00:36:17part of the everything is changed in this part of the changing nature remember I shall you remember this we had to at least one discussion on that for some months ago I went parties happen in the DJ in the case of P penis at least six or seven other sites sites. Spring up I guess that's why I agree with you myself. This is supposed to change landscape like like like something like that like happens in the Gulf of Mexico
00:37:17challenging Subway at using to like this that is probably have some thoughts about I need that takes it to a level beyond the parody Twitter account doesn't swell and you know I remember I think it was two years ago at the beginning of the year I wrote a Blog saying this was the year of transparency and I've been a huge advocate of transparency and I know things being held out in the open and that will process this Wikileaks takes transparency and shows the dark side of it and what I'm really sad about responses that I think I see happening already is that instead of I'm opening up communications instead of making things more visible it's forcing Communications to go more and more Underground
00:38:17it shows the I think the result well those are the web advocates for transparency are heralding as this hero I think he's an anti-hero in terms of transparency because it's forcing people to be much more careful be much more to take their Communications in two ways that are less open and visible knowing if this is the kind of risk and that's really disheartening to me that's interesting you say that to General because the economist issue, the condition that just came out yesterday I had a very interesting did the behavior of Exodus hiding behind a limited and it talks about the fact that you love
00:39:17like a quick question jail based on some of the statistics during that reports one of them indicates that the the online communication that the organization's engaged and we're proportionally higher than the media coverage at some points that immediately only focus a certain percentage of their time on this but what people were interested in hiring therefore there was greater communication going online and simply accommodating the media how important was that and how much did what people were saying online influence the communication that DP engage can post with them and with the media and the whole world was focused on the media coverage there's something like 600,000 media stories that we tracked through pier in the terms of our other media monitoring that we do
00:40:17wow it was a media story underlying bad and that's one of the things I like to help me Liz saying it as what biambi had line this is also a story about the communication because everyone is sort of focus on the media coverage you look at the number of wet hits the people who are coming directly to the to the to the site for information you look at the levels of interaction you look at the at the way in which the people who were involved in the response we're communicating directly with people who are asking questions and you look at what's going on right now with a deep engagement with the Community State sites where there's a lot of interactivity going on the media has gone on and that's all collisions industry
00:41:17and I had told him about signing up to get the updates until he was getting the regular updates from unified command and he had one when we talk to somebody else in his office who asked me a question about this bill and I said and it was clearly had a very very negative impression of how the response was being handled and I said are you going directly to know so you're getting all your information from the media there was a very dramatic difference in understanding of what was really going on those people who are getting it only from the media and those who were getting it directly from the response and that's a really important lesson going forward
00:42:17the landscape the Landscaping we had to deal with 13 languages costs an unsub lacrosse what was happening Graphics describe what was executive Scholastics telling people to describe okay what are we planning to do over the next 2-3 days in the next phase of the operation some of the communications and media teacher active through email text me biting webcast live webcast and where people can chat online
00:43:17response this is one of the key elements at Admiral Allen has been focusing on in his posts feel interviews and by the way I just want to say how much incredible admiration I have for a job that he did but he is in his interview they're saying it will not be an event in the future that does not include a high level of public participation Santa certainly had a high level of participation but that is only going to increase natural oils not only affected the communications but it affected the operations they had one whole section on Boom Wars in which they pointed out that the public media and political pressure put on a response
00:44:17which largely responsible for the placement of Boom rather than the operational Necessities communication functions and the operational response I've been viewed as to basically separate elements of response management they are coming to gather around the lines between them are changing because political pressure media pressure public pressure is dictating response decision to the detriment of the response but never less the activity of the likes of Billy nungesser and the and some of the other local crowd saying hey where are they and the fact that they were getting an incredible amount of media attention and over and over and over again on Anderson Cooper
00:45:17we need to respond to these people who are complaining about we're not doing a good enough job because we're not putting Boomers visible to their constituents and and that political pressure pressure from the from this high level of public participation is going to change response management please leave the scale in the scope of communication that you mention Neil remind me when this thing was what 3 weeks into the crisis
00:46:17please within VP
00:46:36the drive to keep employees informed what was happening and they would result in the oldest Sunday but I understand it says about 8% to the external communication and we also had a own reporters because we have our own Publications and we have people who are reported
00:47:36on the Gulf Coast Gun when I'm reporting what was happening sending that reports to the internet sites and the people they might have some of the things that goes out and that's person who was blocking audience suddenly that was all picked up and I remember speaking to them and they were just absolutely
00:48:36send them an email saying the color of it and the debts of it and what is happening on the ground rather than land report saying what is that mean your perspective mine salary employees in the US
00:49:12we mentioned a few times so we're going to talk about the failures and what you would do differently so well with just about to 10 minutes left probably now is the time to do that what in the communications would if you had this to go back and do over again with with the hindsight what would be the major changes UFC me.
00:49:48changes I would say as we had discussed on the program immediate release program how reactions and the other amongst many other licenses but I don't know how you you integrate some because you're awesome boarding so many new employees such as going to be pretty good at how you integrate
00:50:48as quickly as possible one of the things that I talked about in my book and and in my blogs is a credibility is all that you have and you have to do everything possible to protect it and it is clear that for a whole variety of reasons because he lost credibility part of that was what are the you know well publicised gas of Tony Hayward which I think the large degree were unfair and part of that was the unwillingness above BP and unified command to challenge a lot of them the very false and misleading media reporting that was going on so I remembered you and I having a discussion with your mind me sharing it and I'll fairly early on when it was clear that I'd only Hayward despite the very best effort and all the very good things that he was doing
00:51:48lost credibility in a different face and there was a Tipping Point there in terms of what he was doing and there should have been a changed earlier in terms of the face of the response and The credibility that was needed to replace that the other side of his discussions that I had with both unified command leaders of in the communications as well as BP and I was reluctant to do that and I I think it was a mistake it's a it's a function I called back check and I'm really glad that one of the one of my clients Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for example has instituted fact check on their website
00:52:37simply what I mean by that is in an event such as this you haven't you haven't met a narrative that involves and you have a lot of different reports and the media environment is such that every day they have to get they fight for the battle to get eyes on the screen to get attention a long as they're in a very competitive environment and a lot of times the way in which they do that is not fair and in many times incorrect about it is the only voice that is out there there was no one standing up for BP in the dependent independent organization and so you can't expect that and so I think that organizations need to be much more prepared to aggressively challenge the false and misleading reporting better than ever to be going to happen there's a part of this idiot environment that were in and I suggested unified command website that there be a section that called fat check
00:53:37is recording that was misleading or lie to the wrong conclusions that it be challenged and I regret that that that wasn't done I'm wondering if one of the lessons that will change now from from BPH medication for the visible Presence by BP in the social spaces are there lots of people
00:54:37information located websites dealing is Facebook I'm with someone about social media saying looks for the next two three four five years the dialogue set everything up so that we know that when I just seen evidently happens with any slices goes out lead story on on the on the TV... Goes on at 3:30
00:55:35we have about 4 minutes left but I think I should get one of my questions in this may sound very 10 Channel but interesting to me anyway address the use of those two technologies in less than 3 minutes mileage e played a key role in many ways but one of the things that was introduced to hear is called the widget and certainly that uses RSS feeds as well but I think any of the ways in which you can get information directly from the response fed through other channels through this viral networking process suit so RSS certainly was working through the Twitter and Facebook accounts
00:56:35ulcer the truth to the widget and being able to put this widget on a wide variety of other websites and have that information fed directly as an important thing or what it's related to is I'm getting that information directly to audiences rather than relying on the media to tell your story they have their own agenda the more you can tell it directly the better off you are so I'm not sure what was the first Rabbi if you down on the beach and you sort text in and information answer your questions straight to you because
00:57:35I'm not going to be able to get the information directly to SMS text messaging to enable people to sign up for specific High types of information so somebody want to know what's happening in Alabama beaches for example they could sign up to get text messages related specifically to that topic but as long as I can this time so it all becomes so the cold last in a single management platform secret question okay I don't have that I know it was popular with a number of people in the social media environment has to have that available
00:58:35with less than a minute I think it's time to thank you both for spending the time with us today I really really appreciate it thank you for the opportunity appreciate it on the site as an episode of firc and of course those who weren't able to join us life will be able to hear a 10 devil and I will be back on Monday with a regular episode of shell one quick note if you want the case study go to O'Briens rm.com with an e or an a e b r i e n s, and request a fascinating reading at brother twice now so I highly recommend it have a great day

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