BP Cares (about how much you think they care)

Besides catching up on sports scores and Blake Lively’s relationship status, I don’t really do as good of a job keeping up with the news as I should. Even in my self-centered shell, though, I’ve been hearing a lot about the BP Oil spill. It’s a terrible tragedy, not only for the environment and Gulf-area businesses, but also for BP’s Public Relations department. With public opinion of the company dropping faster than BP’s stock prices, it’s all but certain that the PR damage to the company is going to stick around long after the oil is finally cleared from the Gulf.

An interesting problem BP is now facing is a satirical Twitter account called BPGlobalPR. Presenting itself as existing “to get BP’s message and mission statement out to the Twitterverse,” the account has some hilarious “updates” on the cleaning effort. A new “Adopt an Oil Plume” campaign lets you donate $25 dollars to take 100% responsibility for a plume. Oh, and you get a free BP Cares t-shirt! It also urges us to remember that “[BP is] not killing animals in the gulf, [they] are creating fossils in the gulf,” and to “[have] a little perspective.”

While this is all fun and games for those not invested in the public opinion of BP, it spells trouble for the actual PR department within the company. While the official BP twitter page has about 12,000 follows, the BPGlobalPR account has more than 10x that amount—162,000 and counting. This means people trying to figure out what BP is doing are not getting the good news that on June 13th some 15,200 barrels of oil were collected from the Gulf; instead, they are finding out that BP just dumped 40,000 barrels of “BP cares” t-shirts into the Gulf.

How much does this parody cost BP? Well, the company is reportedly spending close to $10,000 a day to make sure their PR account shows up first in search results. That might be pennies to the oil giant, but it’s still a chunk of change that could better be put toward the cleaning effort, or heck, even reimbursing local businesses affected by the spill. This just goes to show, as beneficial as social media can be to a company, it can just as easily turn against you in a painful (and expensive) way.

But what do you think? Should BP keep spending thousands of dollars fighting bad PR? Or, should they let the rogue Twitter account run its course, and hope in the end the old saying holds true: All publicity is good publicity?