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Posts Tagged ‘BP’

Another Reason Why BP Cannot Move Forward From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

bp oil spillThe Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened in 2010. In an age of swift news cycles, it’s a rare story that lasts for not just weeks or months, but years. This one, rightfully so, has.

In part, this is the doing of BP. Last week, an opinion piece ran in Politico magazine in which the oil company questioned just how much the Gulf was damaged by the spill.

This question sends the message that BP still isn’t taking responsibility for what it did.

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Former Associated Press Editor to Head PR for BP

Bp_1385932cIt’s a tough job, but someone with a solid journalistic background’s gotta do it.

Yesterday we learned that Liz Sidoti, most recently the national politics editor for the Associated Press, will now work as one of the top PR names at BP (that’s “beyond petroleum” to you).

In an email acquired by the Huffington Post, Sidoti told family and friends that she will be “managing a great group of professionals in the press shop, internal communications, speech writing and social/digital media sectors.”

True, but the most interesting part of this story will, of course, be her attempts to help BP shrug off its status as one of the world’s most hated brands.

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Fracking Debate Hits Close to Home for British PR Firm

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Protesters opposed to the process of “fracking”, or extracting natural gas and oil from shale via hydraulic water-powered fracturing, super-glued themselves to the walls of British firm Bell Pottinger‘s office while calling them “fracking liars.”

These activists believe that the British government should invest in renewable resources rather than expanding upon its fracking practices, and they’ve targeted the large, privately owned energy company Cuadrilla as a recipient of prime minister David Cameron‘s largesse. In addition to the aforementioned appearance at Bell Pottinger, protestors also chained themselves together to block entrance to the company’s rural production center.

Lord Browne (his real name), former BP chief and current head of Cuadrilla, defended his company’s practices to reporters at The Sunday Telegraph by insisting that fracking is “in the UK’s interest” when performed safely.

Something tells us the protesters weren’t listening.

Victoria’s Secret Gets an Earful from Irate Parents

The public doesn’t appreciate brands that cross invisible but well-established lines in our culture, particularly in the name of greed. For example, don’t break out your storefront Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving Day. Oh, and don’t sell lingerie to girls who are still convinced they’re going to marry Justin Bieber under a rainbow.

By selling lingerie to the “tween” demographic, Victoria’s Secret has broken all sorts of unspoken public relations rules, most importantly “don’t piss off parents”. (We had a feeling this wasn’t going to go over well.) Brands attempting to court the tween demographic should remember one fact: these girls are too young to legally hold jobs, so their primary source of income (and purchasing decisions) is their parents.

Apparently Victoria’s Secret forgot this, didn’t think parents were paying attention, or honestly didn’t believe there was anything inappropriate about a tween girl and her divorced father’s new girlfriend going shopping together for something hot and spicy at the local VS.

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Wikipedia Debates Letting PR Pros Edit Clients’ Pages

BP (that’s “Beyond Petroleum” to you, sir) is in trouble again this week for doing the very sort of thing we’d expect it to do: using its spokesperson to rewrite nearly half of its own Wikipedia page.

The purpose of the edits was to play down the corporation’s horrible environmental record. And the accusation came only a few weeks before yet another hearing in which BP’s lawyer will try to argue that his client shouldn’t have to pay millions in “fictitious or inflated claims” related to the pending class action oil spill lawsuit.

So: move along, nothing to see here…

Of course it’s not all in-house: today PR Week reminds us that firms have been criticized for doing this sort of thing for their clients before.

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Shouldn’t BP Just Accept the Settlement Already?

The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill trial finally began yesterday after earlier settlement talks failed to produce a compromise, and today brings reports of witness testimony about the company “putting cost cuts over safety” and other familiar, defamatory refrains.

At the same time, settlement talks continue behind closed doors. As part of a “last minute” offer, the Department of Justice now says this whole ordeal could all end tomorrow if BP simply pays $16 billion to the feds and the five affected states.

BP should have no real interest in drawing this long, painful process out. The company has received more bad publicity than any other. It paid the highest fines in history. It’s been shamed (repeatedly) by the DOJ. The public has known about all those incriminating emails for some time. BP’s lawyers may negotiate a smaller settlement by spreading the blame to partners Halliburton and Transocean, but plenty of dirty laundry will be aired (again) in the meantime. So why doesn’t BP just accept the offer?

We can only think of two possible explanations: either the company’s executives feel like the damage has already been done or they’re a bunch of cheap, weaselly bastards.

We’ll go with “both.”

Which Brands’ ‘Green’ Claims Are Legitimate?

Running a green/sustainable/environmentally friendly brand is obviously a big deal now. Following retail giant H&M‘s promises to use its water responsibly (under the watchful eye of the World Wildlife Federation), we figured we’d revisit the issue.

The public is understandably skeptical of such “sustainability” pledges, especially when made by notorious polluters like BP. It’s sort of like Apple promising to stop using child labor to build your iPhone or McDonald’s swearing by “certified sustainable fish” for its seafood McBites: how much of this is for real and how much of it is just another “greenwashing” corporate reputation stunt?

It’s one thing for a brand to release ads highlighting its environmental efforts but, as the Greenpeace Stop Greenwashing project tells us, most of these companies aren’t really all that interested in making their practices more sustainable–especially if they operate in the energy, automotive or forestry industries.

BP is a great example of a brand that just doesn’t have much credibility in the environmental sphere, no matter how many enthusiastic press releases its team writes. Puma, on the other hand, has begun publishing regular accounts of its supply chain’s influence on the environment, making clear that many of its practices have a serious impact and setting related goals that can be measured statistically.

So tell us: which brands do you trust on the sustainability front? While we’re at it, we have a couple more questions:

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Are Corporate Social Responsibility Projects Worth the Money?

Yesterday’s Q&A concerned Teneshia Jackson-Warner‘s vision of a PR/marketing industry focused on “serving” rather than “selling”–or providing work that truly improves both the lives of a given brand’s customers and the communities in which they live.

It’s a tall order. Firms adopting Jackson-Warner’s model would move beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects that are–let’s be honest–almost always designed to improve public perceptions of a brand rather than the lives of people touched by that brand.

These considerations leave us very interested in the most recent study conducted by the Reputation Institute, which asks whether CSR efforts are worth the time and money required. The study’s conclusion: In most cases, they’re probably not. As the Institute’s recent Forbes guest post puts it, CSR isn’t necessarily dead–it’s just “mismanaged.”

Interesting. How so?

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Brandjacking: Activist Group Launches ‘Exxon Hates Your Children’ Campaign

One of the few downsides of doing great branding work is that the public’s familiarity with your name can be easily exploited. Thanks to the explosion of social media, “brandjacking” is a growing phenomenon.

In some cases, brands may benefit from being hijacked (see fictional characters like Lord Voldemort popping up with their own Twitter handles, thereby actually promoting the Harry Potter series). But most brand imposters operate with devious intentions: they either want to steal business from the company, purposely damage the company’s brand image, or create clever parody or satire. In the example below, we see a combination of the last two — a clever campaign created with the clear intent of doing harm to Exxon Mobil.

Look and sound familiar? That’s because it’s a virtual clone of recent Exxon Mobil ads like this one. This is brandjacking at its finest (and perhaps most dangerous for the brand being hijacked).

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BP Agrees to Pay Highest Fine in History for Gulf Spill

BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Spill BP‘s hopes of negotiating an out-of-court settlement regarding the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill officially died today as the company agreed to pay a $4.5 billion dollar fine to the US government. That total includes reparations owed to government agencies like the SEC and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation along with $1.3 billion in criminal fines–the largest such penalty in history.

Perhaps even more significantly, the company also admitted its own culpability in the deaths of 11 rig workers as part of the agreement and confessed to lying to members of congress about the scale of the damage. And that’s not all: two BP employees will face felony charges of manslaughter relating to their roles in the deaths.

We can’t say we envy the firm responsible for dragging BP’s reputation out of the gutter. The company’s Olympics ads may have been surprisingly effective in boosting consumer perceptions, but we can’t imagine this latest development going over too well with an already skeptical public. BP won’t be getting past this you-know-what anytime soon.

Despite all the noise, BP still managed to make a $5.5. billion profit in the third quarter alone–so brace yourself for a glut of commercials starring oil-splattered birds, wrecked homes and Good Samaritans who just happen to be wearing BP logos.