Watching the live video images of oil gushing from the broken well a mile beneath the surface of the sea in the Gulf of Mexico is a terrible sight, knowing the environmental damage that is being caused by the millions of gallons of crude oil that pollute the sea and coastal shorelines since the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded and sank in late April and which started all this.
There’s talk by the US government of criminal investigations that could result in the British oil company being banned from the US. Its share price on the London Stock Exchange has plummeted. There’s even speculation on the wider damage to pension funds and other investments that this crisis could produce.
Unquestionably, BP’s brand and reputation are under assault never mind suffering simply a crisis. Apart from the big-picture situation I’ve outlined, think about the day-to-day level, like where you go to fill the tank in your car. Or, not go as will be the case for at least some of the 273,000 people who are fans of the Boycott BP Facebook page.
It’s at the grassroots level where I think BP has the toughest going. For instance, how do you address a situation where every mention of your corporate name online is blanked out in dripping oil?
So if you need to find information about BP online and display the company name, here’s what that same page looks like without the plugin, this time in the Google Chrome browser.
Relatively minor things, perhaps, yet that’s part of what BP is up against in the perception battle (which translates to your own reality) in which they are a leading contestant.
Then there’s Twitter in the form of @BPGlobalPR, a spoof unofficial Twitter handle that tweets some biting satire. Note the follower count – 102,812 when I grabbed this screenshot just now. That dwarfs by some considerable magnitude the 9,103 following BP’s official Twitter presence, @BP_America.
Set aside Here Comes Everybody for the moment, and look at what effect grassroots opinion can have when a well-organized framework is developed to channel that opinion, such as Greenpeace’s ‘rebrand BP’ logo contest.
In the overall scheme of things, though, stopping that oil leak is paramount. Which makes me ask – where are all the other oil companies if this truly is the catastrophe it seems to be? Everyone says that so where are ExxonMobil, Texaco, Shell, Chevron, or any of the myriad petroleum companies around the world? Isn’t this an industry issue rather than one affecting just one of you?
- FIR Interview: Neil Chapman, BP, and Deepwater Horizon Response – an interview with BP’s Head of Refining and Marking Communications on May 15 with inside perspective on the use of social media tools and channels to share information and engage with the public in places like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr by Deepwater Horizon Response, the US government-led unified command; some thoughts on BPâ€™s own communications approach; and more.