October 2016

BP Deepwater The Movie - The impact of Hollywood On Corporate Reputation

This week the Hollywood movie portraying the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was released across the world’s cinemas to mainstream audiences.  Of course, most costly of all were the human lives that were lost, not the monetary value that followed for BP in the aftermath.  However, what is the impact on corporate reputation when, years later, Hollywood releases a movie depicting the events?

We were recently asked that question by journalists on the Financial Times and Washington Post.  Our thoughts on reputation spread beyond the limitations of our comment in the article.


  • Engage with Hollywood or not?

A stark choice when being approached. Accepting that Hollywood is a stakeholder – and a powerful one in terms of reputation- is inevitable and a reality.  Engage and influence. Don’t engage and you can be certain that others will fill the void.

The decision will almost certainly be determined by the confidence that the business holds in how and what it has done since the drama to ensure a sequel isn’t possible. Transparency and its own powerful facts would have provided peace of mind and confidence in any engagement.

  • All businesses make a good story?

Boards are now beginning to accept that their business is consistently telling ‘a’ story.  Being responsible for reputation means telling ‘its’ story. Listening to how that story is being heard among every audience and then to be able to adapt to tell that story differently until it is understood in the way the business wishes it to be heard.


  • It is inevitable that CEOs will be depicted as the villain?​​

​​ Not necessarily, Hollywood is likely to emphasise any drama but there simply will be little drama around a great CEO. In reputation terms, there is growing expectation that the CEO is visible, able to react appropriately and that they can demonstrate how their personal values align with their professional ones. They are the personification of their organisation, the greatest ambassador of its corporate reputation. Where behaviour doesn’t align with values, they are suspected of playing the villan.


  • Cinema-goers won’t really affect reputation?

​​ Wrong. Hollywood catapults the corporate story to probably its greatest visibility since the original events. They may be a temporary stakeholder group but many cinema goers, who may previously not be conscious of their perception of the business, will leave the cinema knowing how they see and feel about BP.  Stakeholders influence each other and conversation will occur among them.  Old digital content and conversation will be ignited and will add to shaping today’s visibility and reputation. Listening and gauging the intention and emotion behind the content is the way to protect and prioritise corporate reputation.


Our Reputation Tracker and Reputation Fingerprint are being used right now by organisations who want the insight and evidence to understand how their story is being heard.