Shaping Opinions Through Search: Gulf Oil Spill Crisis Communications

While searching for information last night about the disaster created by the spill and collapse of Beyond Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, I noticed a familiar dynamic within the search results: Crisis communication and political responses to the disaster.

While familiar to someone who examines search results for a living, it is by no means common to see a deliberate strategy to respond to or take advantage of search interest in a catastrophe. This particular crisis communications tactic is all too often ignored. But it’s wise not to ignore it if you’ve got some skin in the game. This is a Google Trends chart of search volume for the phrase “Gulf Oil Spill” during the past 30 days:

Gulf Oil Spill Search Volume

And the following is a screencast examination of the search results for that phrase in Bing, Yahoo! and Google. You’ll see both crisis communications tactics at work as well as political responses to the disaster.