British Petroleum: An Egregious Violation of the Ethic of First and Second Things

Authors

  • Shari R. Veil,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Shari R. Veil is Associate Professor and Director of the Risk Sciences Division, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. E-mail: shari.veil@uky.edu.
  • Timothy L. Sellnow,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Timothy L. Sellnow is Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
  • Morgan C. Wickline

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Morgan C. Wickline is a Ph.D. Student and Risk Sciences Research Fellow, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

Abstract

This study analyzes BP's crisis communication related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Specifically, we observe how an organization whose priorities are misaligned with the ethic of first and second things has a severely limited capacity for delivering a crisis message that resonates with the general public, and especially those most affected by the disaster. Organizational connectedness and Lewis' essays on the ethic of first and second things are discussed and research on virtuous responses to crisis and renewal discourse is highlighted to explain how BP's focus on maximizing profit over safety and the environment stymied their communication efforts. A discourse of renewal is suggested as essential for the organization to regain connectedness post-crisis.

Ancillary