EXXON VALDEZ: THE GREAT CRISIS MANAGEMENT PARADOX©
James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA
White Plains, New York, U.S.A.
Published by The Lukaszewski Group Inc., 100 South Bedford Road, Suite 340, Mount Kisco, New York 10549, 914.681.0000.
Copyright © 1993, James E. Lukaszewski. All rights reserved. ISBN 1-883291-14-3. Previously published by Gale Research as a chapter in Crisis Response: Inside Stories on Managing Image Under Siege, Jack A. Gottschalk, Editor.
Exxon and Valdez have become the sine qua non for the mishandling of both an environmental disaster response and the corporate communications surrounding it. The events of the first few hours of Friday, March 24, 1989 in the pristine, icy waters of Alaska have dramatically changed how many companies plan for emergencies and disasters. Valdez crystallized world environmental sensitivity on a scale and with a depth of emotion never before seen.
Nightmare is the perfect metaphor, except, of course, that the spilling of 10 million gallons of oil really did happen. Like a nightmare, it recurs, is recollected and is relived in similar but slightly different ways. Yet, Exxon can never wake up to find this problem has disappeared with the night. The reputational effects of Valdez have become a negative legend, even as other disasters of greater consequence to public interest occurred. Some effects may indeed be permanent. The incident galvanized public attention and opened wallets to increase funding for dozens of environmental groups.
For the U.S., the magnitude of Valdez has managed to eclipse the twentieth century's other giant, nonwar, nonnaturally caused environmental disaster, Union Carbide's deadly explosion in
Bhopal, India, where more than 5,000 people died. Public reaction to the Valdez's massive environmental damage and destruction of wildlife clearly overshadowed the fact that there were no human deaths from either the tanker's spill, the effects of the spill, or the clean-up operations, which lasted nearly two years. Analysis of what actually happened as compared with perception of what was done shows that many permanent negative myths exist about Exxon's actual performance versus the public perception of its behavior.
\\TLG\newdocs\Word\TLG\Web Site\Web Site #4, Monograph Promo Description, Exxon Valdez, 200602.doc
On the other hand . . .
Exxon's ability to weather the Valdez spill has created an important set of powerful questions used by senior executives to challenge extensive efforts to prepare for emergency management beyond operational imperatives. These questions, in a sense, aren't new to those interested in crisis prevention and mitigation, but they have new force and power based on the Exxon experience. 1.
How much effort really needs to go into a crisis disaster response/business recovery development process? Once government and health and safety regulations have been met, why gear up beyond that level of preparation?
Does an organization really pay a permanent price if it doesn't prepare and, therefore, responds "poorly" − either from the public's or some other interested audience's point of view?
If Exxon can survive . . . with the visibility and size of the Valdez spill . . . just how does an organization gauge how much preparation is necessary? What is the justification from an operating standpoint for significant organizational commitment to crisis preparation?
This monograph explores the powerful lessons these paradoxes teach.
If this Abstract has been helpful and you wish to acquire the entire text, please visit www.Amazon.com. PRODUCT DETAILS
Paperback: 26 pages
Publisher: The Lukaszewski Group Inc. (March 1, 1995)