Publication Date

2012-05-08

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2012-05-08

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Public Relations (Communication)

Date of Defense

2012-04-12

First Committee Member

Don W. Stacks

Second Committee Member

Shannon Campbell

Third Committee Member

Joseph Treaster

Abstract

As the population and use of social media platforms increase, so does the role they play in crisis communication. This study focuses on how BP used social media, specifically Twitter, as a platform for their public relations response to the devastating 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. Additionally, this study focuses on identifying how social media users used Twitter as an avenue to reach out to BP on and voice concerns and attitudes after the spill. A content analysis of Tweets written in response to the spill was conducted and through that analysis it was determined that BP used Twitter as a way to disperse messages about how they were making things better or compensating people; while social media users used Twitter to attempt to engage with BP and voice negative opinions about many areas that were damaged because of the spill. By identifying how BP used Twitter and restoration strategies in the wake of the spill, it is possible to compare their use to best practices that have developed through academic research and existing case studies where social media and restoration strategy was used effectively. This can identify why BP’s response was not well received. By identifying how social media users used Twitter, it is possible to use this case study as an example of the importance of engaging with users and identifying areas of concern. This study has implications for public relations practitioners and all professionals who are charged with creating crisis communication plans. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research were included.

Keywords

Restoration theory; social media; crisis communication; BP

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