BP and the Twitterverse

An image of an oil spill in an article about BP's handling of Twitter as part of its technical PR campaign.Some of you may have noticed the occasional story in the news recently about BP and an oil spill that has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Mississippi River Delta. Barrack Obama is quite cross about it and everything.

Now, I’m not going to add my voice to the mountains of PR pundits who have pointed out ‘mistakes’ in BP’s PR policy. I actually think they are doing a pretty good job of dealing with the media given what a difficult task it is on this scale. Remember, Barrack Obama, recipient of the Nobel prize for PR (well, something beginning with P anyway) is on the opposing team in this context.

However, one thing they have done badly is electronic media. From the page on their Web site asking if anyone ‘had any ideas’ about how to deal with the spill to the rogue Twitter account that is spouting fake Tweets, claiming to be BP’s ‘message’. At the time of writing the fake account (@BPGlobalPR) had 180, 582 followers and the real one (@BP_America0 had 16,333. Clearly people will always be more interested in ‘comedy gold’ than corporate social responsibility but I still feel BP are open to a number of levels of criticism here.

Firstly, the company is genuinely trying to stem the oil spill and ensure that this never happens again. As a result its goals are aligned with those of @BPGlobalPR. So maybe there is a process of inclusion that could be begun?

Secondly, 16,333 is a pathetic amount of followers for BP’s official ‘oils spill account’. I’d be willing to bet that I could generate that amount of followers for a similarly high profile organisation with a similarly high profile theme inside a week. The real message won’t be spread unless there is audience.

Thirdly, @BPGlobalPR does claim to be disseminating BP’s message to the Twitterverse and it is not. As a result I think it may be on an unstable footing should BP take legal action. I’m not suggesting that BP does this, as it really isn’t the best way to deal with Internet campaigners. However, if it did begin a process of inclusion, perhaps the first thing it could request from @BPGlobalPR would be the removal of any suggestion that it’s an official BP Twitter stream.

Ultimately there is a lesson to be learnt here for all technical PR people and engineering business owners. If you don’t take charge of your online reputation, then someone else will. A Twitter page will never become tomorrow’s chip paper, neither will a false Web site nor a fake Facebook profile. So, even if you don’t have Barrack Obama and the weight of the world’s media to deal with, it’s time to get on top of it now.

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Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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