Opinion: From our Readers - Perceptions will rule during the BP crisis

The oil spill and tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico is an issue not just for BP (News, 7 May), but for the Swiss company operating the offshore drilling rig on behalf of BP and the US authorities.

The evidence of what happened and why certain undersea equipment failed is still unclear. Yet the potential damage to reputation is ominous.

BP is struggling with both the current crisis and history involving an explosion and fatalities at one of its refineries in Texas some years ago. Its share price has fallen sharply and market capitalisation has contracted. The eventual cost of the clean-up will be huge.

From a reputation view, perceptions going back in time are now also governing how BP recovers from this latest crisis.

Perceptions are rampant when crises occurs. Often evidence is scarce, but people will make judgements purely on what they see or hear.

Perceptions will rule, whatever the reality. Whatever the truth or lack of it, perceptions are people's reality.

So perceptions have to be anticipated. They need to be managed. And depending on the intended result, they may have to be influenced to protect reputation.

In times of crisis, as difficult as it seems, perceptions often rule, not reality.

Alan Lane, chief executive, Vasgama

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