Reflections on Environmental Communications: Lessons Learned from the BP Oil Spill

By Lauren Champlin…
After returning from our class trip, I began organizing information gathered throughout our Gulf coast journey. A diverse range of speakers provided vital information which will be useful for pursuing a career in public relations — specifically, communication strategies shared by John Deveney with Deveney Communication and Herbert J. Malone, Jr., President/CEO of Gulf Shores Tourism.

In New Orleans, our class met with Mr. Deveney, a public relations specialist working to help Louisiana Office of Tourism shape their response to the BP Oil Spill. Deveney spoke on public relation goals for Louisiana and the strategy for achieving those goals. Louisiana needed a campaign that would increase tourism after the BP Oil Spill. According to Deveney, the challenges for tourism were both uncertainty and misperception.

John Deveney speaking to our class at Parkview Guest House

Many people weren’t traveling to Louisiana because they were uncertain when the spill would stop; where the spill was actually located in relation to Louisiana; was the seafood still safe to eat. All this confusion created a decline in tourism. Therefore, Deveney created a tourism campaign which highlighted affordability.
The campaign focused on informing consumers about low hotel rates and great holidays to visit Louisiana. Social media became the highlight of the campaign. Whether it was through Facebook, Twitter, Bloggers or Youtube people were spreading the word about the “real Louisiana.” (www.louisianatravel.com)
Gulf Shores, Ala. is another example where social media was used to boost tourism.

In Gulf Shores, our class met with Herbert J. Malone, Jr., President/CEO of Gulf Shores Tourism. Malone focused on keeping locals and tourists informed on the conditions of Gulf Shore beaches during the BP Oil Spill; even if that meant reporting sightings of oil. Malone stated, “Oil might not have been spotted, but the disaster hit April 2010 because the media focused on the oil since day 1 and cancellations began in the tourist industry; mom and pop businesses began suffering greatly.”

Malone wanted people to continue traveling to Gulf Shores and presenting up-to-date concrete facts to the people through social media was the only way he saw fit. (www.thebeachfacts.com) I found his truthful approach very uplifting, because these days it’s uncommon for businesses to reveal both the good and the bad in a crisis situation.

Deveney and Malone presented transparent communication campaigns to gain consumer interests and maintain public trust which both exemplify positive steps toward managing a crisis situation in any organization. People want the facts and if your organization is willing to be open and honest then you will gain public trust and interest.

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About Nina Flournoy

Author, Editor, Writer with expertise in Book Projects, Blogs, Academic writing, Social Media, PR, Marketing and Strategic Communication. A former national newspaper/magazine reporter and editor-turned-professor in Communication Studies at Southern Methodist University, and Director of SMU in London. Proud mother of three girls, one dog and wife of journalist and professor Craig Flournoy.
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