Exxon Valdez Case Study


Sydney Flock


Crisis Management and Strategies


Exxon Valdez Case Summary

The Exxon Valdez Company was one of the five largest companies in the United States.  The Exxon Valdez was an oil tanker that became famous after it hit the reef in the Prince William Sound in 1989.  The reason why the ship run a ground and who exactly was involved seems to be a debatable topic.  The people who encountered the crisis are all of the community members on the three sides of Prince William Sound and the employees of Exxon.  The main characters however are Lawrence Rawl the CEO of Exxon, the captain of the ship Joseph Hazelwood, the third mate Gregory Cousins, and George Mason the vice president of Bradley/ McAfee.   These four people are the major names in the Exxon oil spill, and they are all four deeply involved in the creation, and the saving of Exxon Oil Company.  This oil spill happened on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez a 987 – foot tanker left Prince William Sound of the coast of Alaska headed toward Long Beach California.  Resources say that the weather was perfect, and the sea was still when the oil spill happened.  The captain of the ship Joseph Hazelwood turned in for the night and left the third mate Gregory Cousins in charge of steering the ship.  Hazelwood gave Cousins a warning about the reef coming up, and he also gave him instructions on how to maneuver around it.  Unfortunately Cousins was not successful at avoiding the reef, and ripped a giant hole in the bottom of the ship.  He alerted Hazelwood, but the damage was already done.  The oil slick was 10 feet wide and 4 miles long.  It was apparent to Exxon that the only thing to do now, was to try to clean up the mess it made.

The weekend news spread across the country, and on Monday morning there was media and environmentalists scattered all over the town of Valdez.  The first representative on Valdez’s site was Exxon’s president of shipping at the time Frank Iarossi.  The CEO of Exxon Lawrence Rawl had not made an appearance as the representative yet.  The crisis that Exxon was responsible for handling was much more than recovering all of the lost oil in the sea.  They needed to apologize to all of the natives of Alaska, and to try to clean up all of the oil and to try and save all of the wildlife.  Resources say that 2 million animals died because of the oil slick. 

One of the problems that Exxon faced was the general public, and the media did not feel like Exxon was deeply sorry, and were not concerned about what happened.  Fishermen were aggravated because clean-up efforts had not worked and the Iarossi was verbally slaughtered in a press conference.  Another spokesperson for Exxon would not release the extent of damage that was done at Prince William Sound and that infuriated the natives of Alaska.  On top of it all the CEO of Exxon Lawrence Rawl had not bothered to show up at Valdez and the fisherman, environmentalists, and the public were past the point of being angry with Exxon.  People started to cancel their credit cards with Exxon, the media attacked Exxon more aggressively, and Exxon’s recovery was looking grim. 

In the same year George Mason was Exxon’s saving grace.  George Mason was vice president of Bradley/McAfee Public Relations, Alaska’s largest public relations firm.  George Mason’s firm was part of Bradley Advertising which was Alaska’s largest advertising agency.  Mason contacted the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which is Bradley/McAfee’s biggest account.  Mason flew to Valdez and met with Don Cornet, Alaska coordinator for Exxon and took the job of implementing strategies for saving the reputation of Exxon.  They made strategies for the tourism industry; the animal rescue centers Exxon had set up in Valdez, and the seafood industry.  Mason opened up the animal rescue centers for more access, but he also put security guards out front to protect the animals in the shelter.  He also helped Alaska’s tourism industry by raising its tourism percent by 5, compared to the year before the oil spill.  Rawl finally decided to appear in front of the public.  He told the public what chemicals would be used to clean up the spill, but he made no apologies to the fisherman, and showed no emotion about the crisis that affected Valdez, Alaska. 

In response to the Exxon Oil spill tragedy, Alaska’s tourism industry grew and all oil companies operating in Alaska had crisis communications plans.  The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill was a warning sign and a prodrome to all other oil companies operating not only in Alaska but also all over the United States.  After the Exxon Valdez oil spill BP had an oil spill, and because they had a crisis plan in place, it was no longer news the next day.  Since, the Exxon oil spill, scientist claim that the Alaska banks and sea is recovering, and wildlife is returning to the area. 

At the very start of Exxon trying to recover from its crisis I don’t think they did a very good job of apologizing to the public and taking responsibility for their actions.  The CEO of Exxon should have stepped up at the very beginning and apologized to the public and showed his emotions for the loss of wildlife in the area.  The company should have used the apologize theory more strongly; because the public did not feel like Exxon was sorry.  There is a light in this dark tunnel though, oil companies all around learned a lesson and have successfully used them.

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One Response to Exxon Valdez Case Study

  1. Pingback: Exxon crisis | Seigneux

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