For decades we have preached the need to project sincere compassion first and foremost in the initial stages of a crisis. We use videos to illustrate our belief that a spokesperson who displays empathy serves a company well as a disaster unfolds. We have many examples that have held up to the passage of time, including a 2005 video From the Archives.
In the afternoon of March 23 of that year, a series of horrific explosions ripped through a section of the BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas. Fifteen people were killed and 180 injured. The media soon descended on the chaotic scene, hoping to learn how such a disaster could happen. About two hours after the explosion, Don Parus, the refinery manager, took part in a news briefing with several reporters. Parus could not provide answers to many of the media’s questions. Instead, he focused on the devastating impact the explosion had on the employees and their families. As you will see in the video, his heartbreaking comments were both compassionate and credible.
Parus was personally devastated, having lost friends and colleagues in the explosion. He brushed aside certain questions because he knew his focus had to be on those impacted by the tragedy. Parus understood questions about the cause of the explosion and other issues could be addressed later. His approach helped put a compassionate face on BP. Parus demonstrated that competent media appearances in the midst of a crisis help a company with its image and standing in the community and put a caring and compassionate face on the organization, which is critically important to the audience affected by the crisis.