Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis


Strategic Communication: Public Relations and Advertising

First Advisor

Rose Campbell


Crisis communication is an integral aspect of public relations that can have either positive or negative repercussions based upon the action that an organization responds. The manner in which an organization handles a crisis determines financial implications that may ensue, public perception and reputation of the organization, as well as the overall success or failure of the organization in the future. Consequently, Timothy Coombs asserts that the best crisis communication practice is to respond quickly, accurately, and consistently (Coombs, 2010: 28). Other scholars concur and add supplementary techniques which emphasize preparedness and responsibility. The present study was conducted to identify models of best practices for crisis management and to apply these models to analyze the effectiveness of BP’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A content analysis of 164 articles from three newspapers, The Times Picayune, The New York Times, and The Herald (United Kingdom), was conducted to examine how BP responded to the crisis in the Gulf, as well as to compare differences in coverage of the crisis and response among the three newspapers. Results reveal that BP’s response incorporated both best practices of crisis communication, as well as crisis responses that could be categorized as unethical. Such unethical responses included evasion of responsibility, denial, and scapegoating, while effective crisis communication tactics consisted of updating the public in a clear, concise manner. Further results and implications for international crisis communication practices will be described.