Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Journalism

First Advisor

Kristen A. Swain

Second Advisor

Jeanni Atkins

Third Advisor

James A. Lumpp

Relational Format



On April 20, 2010, British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig located in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, creating the largest oil spill in U.S. history. BP launched a major public relations response that targeted its online audience through strategic use of its corporate website, Twitter feed, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and Flickr photostream. This content analysis examines BP's use of Twitter during the crisis response phase of the oil spill. BP tweeted on 1,161 occasions from the time of the explosion to the capping of the well. All tweets during this 13-week period were coded by two separate coders to ensure intercoder reliability. Tweets from @BP_America reflected reputation repair strategies, responsibility attributions, and public risk perceptions during different emergency management phases. Reputation repair strategies were reflected in 331 tweets, with the strategies of “compensation” and “reminder” appearing most often. An overwhelming majority of tweets indicated an accident crisis (1,129) with a strong/high crisis responsibility (1,044). Public risk perceptions were implied in 831 tweets, and the perception most implied was that the oil spill response had strong political attributes tied to it.


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