Chevron’s Pizza Party PR Fails to Make Amends

Image: Herald-Standard
Image: Herald-Standard

Multinational energy giant Chevron engaged in some questionable customer relations after one of their natural gas wells exploded in rural Pennsylvania on February 11.

The Appalachia division of the company distributed 100 gift certificates for free pizza and soda to residents of nearby Bobtown, Pa. in an effort to relieve the trauma caused by the explosion—which killed one worker and injured another—and the subsequent four-day long fire it sparked.

Not surprisingly, Bobtown residents aren't thrilled with Chevron's edible entreaty for forgiveness, questioning how a pizza coupon is supposed to make them feel better about living near a volatile gas well.

"Worst apology ever: Sorry our fracking well exploded. Here's a free pizza," one angry Twitter user wrote Tuesday, according to CNN.

Bobtown sits above the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale, a source of contention in the region for years because of its potential riches. The dangers associated with extracting natural gas from the vast shale deposit (a process known as fracking)—explosions, fires and groundwater contamination—are well known.

The companies that choose to engage in fracking have to deal with the potential backlash after incidents like the one that occurred last week.

In a statement after the explosion, Chevron spokesperson Ann Wainwright explained: "As part of our meetings with a small group of immediate neighbors impacted by this activity, we have offered a token of appreciation for their patience during this time."

"We also wanted to support Bobtown Pizza, a local business that has been providing meals to our first-responders and workers at the well site," Wainwright added.

While apparently well-intentioned, Chevron's response doesn't match the magnitude of the event, with many residents scared of what's to come. In a valuable (if not obvious) lesson for PR pros, Chevron's incident shows that the response to a dangerous catastrophe should equate with the severity of the situation.