Damage Control Strategies – Exxon Mobil Corporation

The oil industry has had quite a long history. This is one of those industries where it is difficult to come up with very innovative commercials, promotions, and means of getting current views and interest. With so many dealers and dealerships to choose from, customers and investors must be expertly convinced in order to go for a specific brand, or business location. The major headache for many managers in this industry and many others is what they can do when their brand goes south.

The Exxon Mobil Corporation is one company that has had its image dented by one significant event that triggered the company’s need to use damage control strategies. The incident in question here is the  Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in which approximately 11 million gallons or 250,000 barrels of oil spilled in the United States (Alaska) and up to today it is still considered the number one spill worldwide in terms of damage to the environment.

The Exxon Mobil Corporation becomes then a classic example to look at because the spill affected many people economically and even tourism tooka hit hence denting the image of the company in a big way. It is therefore interesting to look at the strategies the corporation employed to redeem its image. The Exxon Mobil Corporation is definitely a giant energy company that has encountered some tough luck over the past few years. The good thing is that the company chose not to let the drawbacks affect its future success.

When The Exxon Mobil Corporation brand went south, and its reputation having crashed, Exxon corporation used different damage control strategies to market itself to clients hence in a way restoring its  name and image. There is definitely a lot that we stand to learn from from this industry’s strategies. With The Exxon Valdez calamity having damaged such a respected brand and giant they resorted to various avenues to try and restore its good reputation.

It has been noted that the officials of Exxon were quite slow  for example they apologised for the spill ten days after it occurred hence creating the impression of a company that was not responding vigorously to the crisis. Despite having been slow off the blocks in reacting to the crisis at hand did Exxon’s officials do something to redeem their image?

Exxon first dispatched Frank Larossi, president of the Exxon Shipping Subsidiary, to Valdez, where he served as the chief spokesman. He was followed a few days later by William Stevens, president of Exxon U.S.A., another subsidiary. Mr Rawl, chair of the Exxon Corporation made comments about the incident and flew to Alska albeit weeks after the event. By so doing Exxon was trying to get their executives out infront. People would then see that Exxon’s identity lay not only in the collective but also the presence of high level officials showed the seriousness of the corporations senior officials in the issue. This to some extend served to personify and also give Exxon the human face it desperately needed during such a crisis.

After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Rawl, blamed state officials and the Coast Guard for the delay, charging that the company could not obtain immediate authorization on the scene to begin cleaning up the oil or applying a chemical dispersant. If Exxon was not at fault for the delay, their image should not be tarnished. Exxon simply shifted blame arguing that Coast Guard was actually responsible for the offensive act.

Another way that Exxon tried to redeem their image was to try to minimize the negative feelings associated with their wrongful act. After the Valdez oil spill, Exxon officials tried to down play the extend of the damage. Whe it was reported on May 19 that Alaska had retrieved tens of thousands of sea birds, hundreds of otters, and dozens of bald eagles, an Exxon official told National Public Radio that Exxon had counted just 300 birds and 70 otters. This statement worked to minimize the apparent problem. Here though they tried to make a serious problem a trivial matter and they stood to get a backlash.

In the recent past, Exxon has been dealing “ruthlesly efficient” when handling much smaller oil pipeline spills for example the one in Mayflower, Ark. This has made investors and potential investors look favourably at Exxon hence the once dented, and tattered image of the corporation is slowly getting back on track.

ExxonMobil also accepted immediate responsiblity for the spill and concentrated on cleanup and cleanup payments, settlements and fines. The corporation also undertook significant operational reforms and implemented thorough operational management system to prevent future incidents. ExxonMobil has for example modified tanker routes, instituted drug and alcohol testing programs for sensitive positions, restricted safety- sensitive positions to employees with no history of substance abuse, strengthened training programs for vessel captains and pilots among others. Making the ammends above has greatly improved the corporation’s image.

The last measure that ExxonMobil has done is the realisation that perfomance creates amnesia. The best way they realised that to get out of the PR disaster was to outperform. The corporation has tried to endear itself to invetors by diversifying its products and treating their clients well. The corporation realised that powers of persuasion are limited and there was very little that could be done to restore the corporations image other than wait until most of the investors and consumers have forgotten the incident.

The above measures helped immensely in contributing to a turnaround. ExxonMobil is slowly getting back on its feet and as per now and their stock look most attractive.

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