On February 11, 2014 a gas well exploded in rural Pennsylvania. This explosion caused the death of one worker and the injury of another. It also subsequently led to a four-day long fire (Greene, 2014). Their response to the incident was to distribute 100 gift certificates and a statement by their spokesperson Ann Wainwright that said “As part of our meetings with a small group of immediate neighbors impacted by this activity, we have offered a token of our appreciation for they patience during this time. She also added that “We also wanted to support Bobtown Pizza, a local business that has been providing meals to our first-responders and workers at the well site” (Greene, explosion, relax have a pizza!”. A resident also stated that “It felt like a huge slap in the face” and that they felt they had not addressed anything (Malloy and Morton, 2014). Following this incident, there have been several angry tweets such as “Nice community relations: if you are frightened by fire and
This recent crisis seems to show a prime example of how poor public relations can affect the community. In an article on PR News, Greene writes that Chevron’s incident shows that the response to a dangerous catastrophe should equate to the severity of the situation (2014). He also states that companies that choose to engage in fracking (the act of extracting natural gas from shale deposits) will have to deal with the potential backlash after incidents such as this one (2014). I feel that this statement makes it apparent that a crisis plan needs to be put into place BEFORE a crisis occurs so that when one does, the company is prepared and ready to take control of it. This PR department obviously missed the mark when it was decided that pizza coupons was an adequate way to compensate the emotional terror and physical harm that had occurred.
When dealing with crises, it is imperative that a public relations professional is proactive. They should be aware and using skills such as environmental scanning to make sure that when a crisis does come out (because one surely will) they stay on top of it. A way to make sure that a company is more than prepared to take on the challenge of a crisis, a prepared generic crisis plan should be drafted to make sure that the company is ready. This means that the public relations professional and their client can sit down and discuss what the possible crises may be and what the best way to diffuse the situation would be. In a blog about crisis preparedness by Tony Jaques, he wrote about a study that was conducted among practitioners that ranked crisis preparedness second only to the speed and volume of information flow in importance. This study has been called the largest and most comprehensive of leadership in PR and communications (2013). In this study, not only were the importance of different responsibilities of the PR professionals broken down, but also the importance of different aspects of crisis preparedness were ranked. At the top of this list is developing effective crisis communication plans for action (Jaques, 2013).
To bring back the Chevron gas well explosion, it seems to me that if someone had decided to come up with a plan prior to the explosion there may have been a much better outcome. There are now citizens that are going to move as soon as they get the chance and others that are too annoyed to even pick up the phone to call the hotline to complain (Malloy and Morton, 2014). A much smarter option could have been reached if Chevron would have been prepared with a plan besides giving the affected citizens a pizza party. Citizens that are still living around something that is leaking gas and heat into the atmosphere (Malloy and Morton, 2014). Being prepared counts for a lot.
Malloy, A., & Morton, L. (2014, February 19). Some Pa. residents near blown Chevron gas well finding pizza gift hard to swallow. CNN. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/18/us/chevron-pennsylvania-explosion-pizzas/
Greene, B. (2014, February 19). Chevron’s Pizza Party PR Fails to Make Amends. PR News. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/2014/02/19/chevron-scorned-for-cheesy-customer-relations-following-natural-gas-blast/
Jaques, T. (2013, December 3). Crisis Preparedness is a Top Priority – Crisis Insights Blog -. Crisis Preparedness is a Top Priority – Crisis Insights Blog -. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from http://blog.missionmode.com/blog/crisis-preparedness-is-a-top-priority.html