Jamshed Avari | 22 June 2010
ANS AND CRITICS OF ANYTHING ARE CONSTANTLY FINDING NEW WAYS TO USE THE WEB.
JAMSHED AVARI, deputy editor
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been following a brilliant Twitter feed called BPGlobalPR. It’s one of the most clever, entertaining and ruthless pieces of comedy I’ve ever come across. The continuing Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster is perhaps not the best backdrop against which comedy should be made, and the authors understand this full well. They’re targeting the British Petroleum management; creatively criticizing their behavior, statements, actions and inactions since the tragedy began.
The Web obviously loves it: BPGlobalPR today has over 160,000 followers. It's also spawned BPTerry, a fake BP PR official who’s as callous, self-centered, and oblivious as a drunken fratboy. Both accounts have seen thousands of retweets. Mainstream media and Web watchers alike have been trying to pin the still-anonymous operators down for interviews, but they only respond in character, making snappy jokes and continuing the whole façade of being legitimate PR workers.
The timing has been just perfect. There’s nothing BP can do at this stage to keep up a good public image. Images of oil-soaked birds are all over the news, and oil is washing up on shorelines, making the gravity of the situation sink in for millions of people. And the tweets have just been brilliant! Sample these: “We pray for a forgetful nation and more money every day!”, “The President had a chart outlining his battle plan, but @bpTerry ate it”, and the deliciously unhelpful “If you want to help clean up, drive your cars fast and often. Let's melt those glaciers and dilute this mess!”
How has BP been using social media to bolster
The pranksters do have practical intentions though. They’re selling T-shirts with a highly tongue-in-cheek BP logo rendered in black with one corner “leaking” like an oil slick. They claim they’ve already donated US$ 20,000 to non-profit organizations involved in the cleanup effort. It’s brilliant: using satire to be funny, engaging, and thought-provoking at the same time by tapping into all the resentment aimed at BP right now.
BPGlobalPR is a beautiful example of a peaceful, worldwide, attention-grabbing campaign that people will remember and keep coming back to. There are also dozens of Facebook pages and some truly inspired YouTube videos, though most are just angry rants or jokes at BP’s expense which don’t necessarily contribute to the cleanup effort.
And how has BP itself been using social media to bolster its image and communicate with the public about its efforts to clean up the mess? Quite badly, it would seem. Its website shows abysmally fake looking cleanup crews at work and downplays any news of ecological damage. Responses all over the Web reflect that no one is buying it. BP hasn’t leveraged Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any social platform, but it’s getting badly savaged on all of them. There are so many lessons for businesses to learn here that this situation will probably be studied and discussed for years to come.