BP is still frantically trying to clean up after and plug the spill that stemmed from an oil rig burst in April. But while no one seems to have the ability to actually stop the leak, one person has attacked the problem with an unconventional tool: satire.
Today the man who runs BPGlobalPR, a humorous (and fake) twitter feed written from the perspective of BP's PR team, has written a blog post to explain his methodology. As it turns out, throwing jibes in social media can be a particularly effective method of promoting a political message.
The author, who calls himself Leroy Stick, denies rumors that he is using the feed to promote himself or get a book deal. Instead, he is donating 100% of the $10,000 he collected from fans who have purchased his "bp cares" tshirts to healthygulf.org.
For a brand like BP, that is currently struggling to contain a massive natural disaster, there has been much talk about how they should subsequently control their PR disaster. Protests, outrage and disgust are common reactions to BP at the moment. But the humor approach has taken hold.
BPGlobalPR now has over 100,000 followers. Some sample tweets:
Just got 100k followers and our oil is headed to Florida. You know what this means... WE'RE GOING TO DISNEYWORLD! #bpcares
If we're being accused of being criminals, we want to be tried by a jury of our peers- wealthy execs who don't give a damn. #fairisfair
We are very upset that Operation: Top Kill has failed. We are running out of cool names for these things.
But Stick has some advice for BP on the PR front:
"Do you want to know what BP should do about me? Do you want to know what their PR strategy should be? They should fire everyone in their joke of a PR department, starting with all-star Anne Womack-Kolto and focus on actually fixing the problems at hand. Honestly, Cheney’s publicist? That’s too easy."While there was some initial confusion as to the source (and reality) of the tweets, the feed is now categorically recognized as satire.
For what it's worth, BP has done nothing to silence the BPGlobalPR Twitter feed, though it's probably within their rights on Twitter to do so. BP sokesperson Toby Odone told Ad Age:
"People are entitled to their views on what we're doing and we have to live with those. We are doing the best we can to deal with the current situation and to try to stop the oil from flowing and to then clean it up."
That falls in line with Stick's suggestion that BP forget its brand and simply address the problem:
"You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand? Have a respectable brand. Offer a great, innovative product and make responsible, ethical business decisions. Lead the pack! Evolve! Don’t send hundreds of temp workers to the gulf to put on a show for the President. Hire those workers to actually work! Don’t dump toxic dispersant into the ocean just so the surface looks better. Collect the oil and get it out of the water!"
Considering that it's been over a month and a half since the leak began, it's hard to agree that BP has things under control right now.
Sometimes the marketing message doesn't matter until you can fix the problem at hand. But The BPGlobalPR tweet proves how effectively Twitter can be used as a tool to organize people and raise money for a cause. The post goes on:
"I started @BPGlobalPR, because the oil spill had been going on for almost a month and all BP had to offer were bullshit PR statements. No solutions, no urgency, no sincerity, no nothing. That’s why I decided to relate to the public for them. I started off just making jokes at their expense with a few friends, but now it has turned into something of a movement. As I write this, we have 100,000 followers and counting. People are sharing billboards, music, graphic art, videos and most importantly information."
As for BP, ignoring the feed and letting people express their frustration seems like the right thing to do. At this point, the best PR strategy is to simply fix the problem they've created. Then they can work on next steps.