BP and the Case of Bad PR

June 15, 2010 by  
Filed under PR, social media

Beyond the horrible images of the Gulf of Mexico drowning in oil, I can’t help but watch yet another disaster hitting BP: a PR nightmare that has ruined its brand. This is a company’s worst fears come true – a disaster impacting an entire nation brought on, it seems, by much of its own doing. Ouch. That PR team has its work cut out for it.

One of the most interesting developments has been the creation of a fake BP Twitter feed, BPGlobalPR, now with more than 163,000 followers and retweets galore thanks to its dry wit (“Investing a lot of time & money into cleaning up our image, but the beaches are next on the to-do list for sure.”) and tweets dripping with sarcasm (“Adopt a BP oil plume! $25 makes you 100% responsible for an oil plume and a ‘bpcares’ shirt!”).

And don’t forget YouTube, home of videos taking BP to task for its reaction to the oil spill. My favorite: BP Spills Coffee.

But BP certainly isn’t the first company to take a beating for its missteps. Lest we not forget Toyota just a few months ago and a bevy of auto executives from Detroit taking a private jet to Washington, D.C., to ask for a government bailout.

Unfortunately, these recent examples won’t be the last. But, today a reputation is destroyed in the time it took me to type this paragraph. (140 characters)

Before your company barely has a chance to catch its breath and craft a statement, blogs are buzzing, Twitter is tweeting and Flip cameras are rolling for a satirical YouTube video. Truly, your only course of action is to be as ahead of the game as you can be. This isn’t the time to say “no comment,” buying a couple hours for the staff to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

In this day of social media and the instantaneous news cycle, you have to stay one – better make that two – steps ahead. If these events teach PR people anything, it’s to cover all your bases and that includes social media.

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