Be Careful Where You Click

There are endless reasons right now to dislike BP. The company will now always be known for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its immense environmental costs, most of which have not yet been fully revealed.

In another Greenough blog post, Jennifer Eberline asks: Is it even possible to lead a strong communications strategy during a crisis like this? My answer to that question is: “not really.” Especially in the case of BP who is spending significant dollars buying up all of the “oil spill” terms on popular search engines like Google and Yahoo so users can “Stay Updated On BP's Gulf of Mexico Response Efforts.”  See photo below, courtesy of the Mashable article, “BP Buys Top Google Result for “Oil Spill”


Although the sponsored links are labeled as such, should BP have the privilege of giving anyone searching for information on this catastrophe its side of the story first?  In my opinion, no!  As someone who works in the PR industry, I can sympathize with how difficult a task it must be for their PR team to continually put out fires left in right – and there have been many. However, when clicking on the BP-sponsored “Oil Spill” link I find it insulting to watch Tony Hayward talk about how they have taken full responsibility for cleaning up the oil spill, let alone watching all the wholesome images of workers cleaning up the spill in their clean white shirts.

As one journalist said, “While it may take BP years, or even decades, to clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the oil giant is wasting no time to attempt to clean up its tarnished image.”

When it comes to public image, what do you think (if anything) BP could do better?  Would painting a more honest picture of the crisis (as Jennifer suggested) be enough, or should they tone down their PR efforts and lay low for awhile?

-Contributed by Chantal LeBoulch. Follow her @cleboulch