I’m following the still-breaking news about the massive oil terminal blaze in Hemel Hempstead in the UK that started on Sunday – what some reports are saying is the biggest fire of its type in Europe since 1945 – and thinking about PR.
In an event that’s making news headlines worldwide, this has all the potential of being a significant PR crisis for Total Oil UK, the oil company who owns the terminal. And there continues to be speculation in some news reporting as to what caused the blaze. An accident? Terrorists? (that’s generally discounted now.) Someone being careless? Something else?
Inevitably the company is under pressure to answer such questions, to which they’re remaining tight lipped at the moment.
There’s also the question of the environmental impact, even though experts say there’s little sign so far.
So as firefighters still try and get the blaze under control and as a massive pall of smoke drifts across southern England on the way to France, I wondered what Total Oil were doing from the PR point of view.
Well, a lot. Judging from the media information on Total’s website, they have a well-oiled (no pun intended) crisis communications plan that they implemented pretty speedily.
The site contains detailed information about the terminal, contact phone numbers and the texts of press releases that report concisely on what’s happening and what Total are doing to keep oil and petrol supplies going. With so much information being reported in the media (and in blogs), a lot of it conflicting, it’s good to see the company’s calm reporting on this site.
A difficult time for Total’s communicators.