Shell : Integrating media

A coordinated response contains potential reputation damage

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The feature

Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas giant, has coordinated its response to the grounding of a drilling rig in Alaska across communication channels. Shell’s global home page has a prominent photo panel immediately below the main image carousel with the headline caption ‘Shell in Alaska, Kulluk update’. The panel links to a sub-section of the Shell United States website dedicated to coverage of the grounding while under tow of a ‘drillship’ during a storm on New Year’s Eve. The page has an extended summary of the situation and the response at the scene in Alaska, and links to Shell’s official statement and ‘Latest articles from Unified Command’, a joint incident response body coordinated by the United States Coast Guard. These link through to news releases housed on the Shell U.S. site. The official statement and several of the Unified Command releases have links to an ad hoc incident website ( A few also include links to a dedicated Twitter feed and Flickr gallery that are also promoted on the incident website. The Shell U.S. site has a suite of Page tools that enable users to share a link with their followers in various social media or add it to a blog account (on Wordpress or Blogger). A ‘follow us on Twitter’ panel links to a Shell Alaska feed that is currently covering the incident and in turn links back directly to the Shell Alaska page on Shell U.S., where the Latest articles and company statement are heavily featured.

The takeaway

Circumstances have fortunately played out favourably for Shell and those involved directly in the grounding of its drillship. With no fatalities or serious injuries resulting from the incident and no reports so far of environmental damage, its news value – even to campaigners against Shell’s presence in Alaska – is relatively low. Nevertheless, the company’s online handling of the event as it unfolded must also be considered a significant factor in the damping of sensationalism surrounding the incident and the protection of Shell’s reputation. The immediacy, maintenance and scope of the online response – on the website and on social media – reveal a risk management strategy already in place and designed to get out Shell’s side of the story in an environment it controls and where people will gravitate to as the news spreads. In the latter respect, the integration of sharing and blogger tools is as important (for spreading the Shell view) as the provision of a dedicated Twitter feed for pushing out its news updates. Links to the standalone incident website and to a dedicated Flickr gallery are further proof of a confident and adept approach to cross-channel communication.
First published 03 January, 2013
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