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Like PR for a Rapist

It started a few days ago when I saw a blog post about BP missing an opportunity on social media because the company was not totally engaged.  A twitter account that looked just like a legitimate BP account has been tweeting “tongue in cheek” posts and was becoming viral with follower numbers climbing exponentially.  The account was clearly not by BP and the post chastised BP for not taking the opportunity to utilize social media as they navigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.  There was a pretty lengthy discussion in the comments section and a large number of tweets and RT’s about the post.

I couldn’t help feeling, as I read it all, that the discussion was really missing something very critical.  To have a discussion about the “management” of BP’s public image in the aftermath of this oil spill is so out of bounds to me.  Did we discuss how Ted Bundy managed his image during his trial for the vicious murder of a number of young women?  Did we consider how the Oklahoma City bomber or the Twin Towers terrorists managed their images?  Then why is this any different?  11 people died on that exploding oil rig.  Countless numbers of creatures will die covered with that horrendous oil slick.  And who knows if the people who’s livelihood depended on fishing in that area will ever be able to go back to their work again.  Yesterday, I heard that the entire Gulf will be forever changed because much of the Gulf sea life begins in that area and then migrates throughout.  If the area is destroyed or entire populations of sea life eliminated then that is perhaps a permanent elimination of some of the creatures there.

Clearly, the executives and others at BP made decisions before the beginning of this crisis with an understanding that there was significant risk involved in what they were doing.  Essentially, they just didn’t really care.  They gave a big old middle finger to just about everyone as their greed and selfishness guided their choices.  Sure there is some outrage among some.  And probably just about everyone has had a brief exchange about how terrible this is.  But instead of using this as a teachable moment about “damage control” and utilizing the latest tools in social media, why aren’t we having lengthy discussions about how a company could get away with such a total lack of ethical and civic responsibility?  Why aren’t we using every PR/Marketing tool at our disposal to send a message to BP and every other company out there that doesn’t understand what corporate social responsibility (csr) is and putting intense pressure on them to NEVER conduct themselves in this manner again?  It is time for WE THE PEOPLE to be mad as hell and convey in no uncertain terms to EVERY company in this country that we really are NOT going to take it anymore.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. I think because they are operating under the guise that oil is a necessary evil in anyones lives and that they dont need to actually do damage control. It would be nice if they could actually be earnest in their humiliation but instead they still act as the robber barons that they are! Until an electric car become as affordable as a gas guzzler or we make bike lanes available in every part of the country, BP has us over a barrel ( pardon the pun).


  2. Thanks for your comment Ericka. I think that you may be correct. Unfortunately, BP and other companies like them have been free to do as they please for so long that they have almost become cocky about it. Unless we, the consumers, make different choices, like driving less and dramatically reducing our oil consumption, they will continue to, as you so aptly wrote, have us over a barrel.

  3. I’m with you, Heidi. There are also folks discussing how environmental organizations that have received money from BP should be handling this is a “brand” or PR matter. (Which is a complex question, but I’ve already said my piece on that.)

    All of this puts image over substance, distracting from the real issues and fundamental questions you’re raising.

    That gets us quickly into the political arena, since this disaster is a direct consequence of political choices made over the past decade and more.

    One piece of the answer is consumers making different choices, but this is also very much about *voters* making different choices. And about making sure folks like you and me — those who care about social good instead of pure greed — have powerful voices in the world.

    This disaster has lit a fire under me to put even more of my efforts in that direction. (More soon on that.)

    Glad you wrote this, Heidi. Thank you!

  4. Pam,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post…looking forward to seeing what you have posted and will post about all of this.

    Thrilled to hear that you have a fire lit under you to be even more of an activist. That’s the only way to assure that we make things better. As the saying goes, (something like this) “All that needs to happen for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” So we need to make wise choices about the chemicals we use or don’t use in our homes, about how much driving we do and in what sort of vehicle-just about everything we do everyday needs to be thought out in terms of its impact on the planet. It is time for us to make our decisions based on social good instead of greed-I love your juxtaposition on that!

    Lots of important issues right now and it is more critical than ever that those of us who do care, get out there and vote, as well as do what we can to help elect government officials who will move us in the direction of conservation, alternative energy, fair immigration laws, fair tax structures, education as a priority, elevating our role as peace maker on the world stage and not as war wager, and creating a country in which all people, of every color, social economic status, gender, sexual preference and any other category are treated equally and with respect.

    (Whew! You inspired practically another blog post Pam! Thanks for your thoughts…looking forward to continuing the conversation with you.)

  5. Jenna (JCarterMarketing),

    Thanks so much…that means a lot coming from someone in the marketing world. You are a part of one of the audiences I really wanted to reach on this.

    Darin, Hard to argue with you when you are so right. Perhaps it isn’t so black and white as to stop buying oil…but EVERYONE can use less. I know that I most certainly have in the past 5 years. Remember how fast the gas prices dropped in 2008 when everyone used less because of the high prices? We have more power as consumers than we realize. And if we did more socially conscious buying we could have a profound impact in a lot of different areas. It is time for us to use that power and help create the kind of ethical country/world that many of us want.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post Darin.

  6. This says what a lot of people are thinking. Thanks for expressing it so clearly. I hate the double-standard.

    1. Hilary, Thank you so much. I have heard from a number of people that this post is exactly how they are thinking as well. Now we all have to become (or continue to be) active on this issue or whatever issue drives us!

  7. Every day people are USING oil and oil based products LIKE WE DON”T CARE. Think about it. How long to stop using plastic bags? How quickly did we go from the small car shift and start buying bigger and bigger cars that became trucks, how many have refused to allow development of fantastic public transportation? And, election after election, we failed to pay attention to the ties our elected representatives have to big corporations that override planning and care for the public good. America needs to take the magnifying glass and take a good look at itself. You, me, our representatives. What pleasures have we been chasing that have kept us from giving of ourselves for the common good? And if you have, then what can we do even better!

    1. Thanks Meryl, Lots of hypocrisy because people don’t want to be inconvenience. Do you know HOW HARD it is to go to the grocery store and convince them that it is ok to put produce in my bags and not first put them in plastic? Some changes are being made…but clearly not enough and not fast enough. And boy oh boy did we start buying more gas when the prices went back down. And clearly, we cannot bring on REAL campaign/election finance reform fast enough!

      Thanks for your thoughtful post…keep pushing people to think carefully about the choices they make!

  8. Thank you Heidi for bringing a semblance of common sense to this issue. When will we as a country finally wake up and demand real change? When will we realize that ours is not a government by and for the people, but a government controlled by corporate greed? Well said.

    1. Thanks Pamela for your thoughtful and kind comments. Clearly some people are starting to waking up and realize what is going on in our country. Campaign finance reform will hopefully one day make a difference. But until then, (and probably even once that happens) we activists need to scream, jump up and down and make a bit of a scene or these corporations will literally continue to get away with murder!

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