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Effective Communication A Case Study

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Effective communication a case study

David Vigh

University of Phoenix

Public Relations


Douglas Bottomley

Jun 20, 2006


This paper evaluated the communication efforts used to communicate the tragedy on December 2 1984 in Bhopal India when a UCC plant there leaked Liquefied Methyl Isocyanides which led to the death of between 1,700 and 4,000 people. The discussion will cover the history of the accident and discuss ways the UCC handled the communicating of information to publics and briefly discuss way that may have improved this process

Effective communication a case study

Crisis Management

Even when the best preparations have been made many companies still must deal with crisis. How each company deals with these says much about the company and the leadership. In the case being discussed today many good decisions made by management failed because of reasons that could have been foreseen.


In December of 1984 Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) which produced Liquefied Methyl Isocyanides (MIC) had a leak in their plant in Bhopal India. According to some figures as many as 4,000 people died that night as a result of this accident. The company after years of producing MIC was pressured by the Indian government to sell off a large part of their ownership, to that same government, as a means of the government to provide much needed jobs for their citizens. The plant was run by managers and workers from India and information concerning the plant was reported to the corporate headquarters in the US. (Jackson & Center, 2003) There were many aspects of the crisis management plan which failed however the communication aspect deserves the most scrutiny.

Communication of the Accident

The beginning of the failing began with the reporting of the incident through the levels of management. The CEO Warren Anderson was informed by a reporter who called his home at 0430 requesting a statement concerning the leak of MIC in Bhopal. This failing of internal communication began the decline of the crisis management plan. Proactive and reactive communication channels must be addressed by management before and constantly during any crisis. Warren Anderson chose to travel to India to manage the crisis personally. This decision made domestically would have been productive was not productive as the Indian Government arrested him upon his arrival and rendered him ineffective. The opportunity evaluate the situation and communicate his findings to fellow employees in the US was over. The company had to settle for news reports for information on the situation. (Jackson & Center, 2003) The truth as seen by the media was being reported to all publics including internal, general public and shareholders with no way for UCC to confirm or deny any of the allegations. The internal publics including the employees of the plant in Bhopal, the corporate headquarters and in all other plants throughout the company needed to be informed of the facts as many of them were being asked by the media and friends of the details of the accident. The importance of a clear concise and most importantly consistent explanation is very important. After the lack of clear up the chain notification the next largest issue with communication was the fact that there were only two overseas phone lines in the entire city. In this day and age of cellular phones and global mobile phones it is hard



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