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Internet Marketing, Social Media and the BP Crisis

By Domenic Carlson

Yet another crisis has hit the Gulf region of the United States. Hurricane Katrina is still firmly in the minds of Gulf Coast residents, and April’s Gulf rig explosion – along with the BP oil crisis – has given us unfortunate lessons on corporate irresponsibility. But, adding insult to this eco-disaster, is the way that BP is handling its public responses and public relations to this tragedy.   CEO Tony Hayward’s quotes of desiring to “get his life back”, broadcasting heartfelt yet media polished responses, and spending of millions of dollars to repair BPs image, make up communications that only flow in one direction – from BP to BP to consumers. However, in this age of two-way conversation, the availability of social media has proven to be useful not only for Internet Marketing experts promoting to consumers, but companies needing to keep healthy dialogue going in times of crisis.

In BP’s defense, part of their investment for image improvement did go into some social media. According to Reuters news service, BP bought some ads and top search results on Google.  Search terms such as “oil spill” directed users to a list of YouTube video responses from BP’s point-of-view.  The Search Engine Marketing ads were set to intercept people who might run into negativity about the BP brand. This was BP exercising pure damage control. Still, the search result was not designed to solicit two-way communication.

For most online users, BP is doing the same thing online that they’re doing in their traditional PR efforts. BP is not trying to build upon newspaper and television efforts by trying to engage, they are just talking AT consumers with their side of the story. Executives at BP are not hearing what consumers have to say, and if they are hearing, they are not responding. With so many consumers being tech savvy and expecting to be part of the conversation with businesses, especially ones involved in such major incidents, it would be only detrimental to a business to remain one-sided.

So what can other businesses come away with from BP’s PR blunders? When negative press comes a firms’ way, the natural instinct is to want to run from the story and or only tell your side of events.  The first thing most businesses should do, if they haven’t already, is communicate with the public through all the traditional and non-traditional outlets such as television and print and social media sites and services. Still, the best method in regards to reinforcing transparency is through the use of social media. Whether it is a simple Facebook page or uploads from Youtube, the technology is in place to assist companies that wish to be open. Today, because of the instantaneous state of uploading video and pictures, audio – along with thoughts and ideas – corporations cannot keep the public at arms length any more. People trust that public corporations, even in tough times, will show that they are not hiding any news that pertains to them, their public or the world at large. BP’s handling of this oil spill could have had a complete different outcome in terms of Public Relations had they simply taken advantage of the social media tools available to them. At worst, BP would have kept their battle limited to the cleanup efforts, rather than further image damage control.

Domenic Carlson writes on behalf of inSegment, Boston’s leader in Internet Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, and the home of Boston SEO.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Carlson, Domenic "Internet Marketing, Social Media and the BP Crisis." Internet Marketing, Social Media and the BP Crisis. 26 Jun. 2010. 3 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Carlson, D (2010, June 26). Internet Marketing, Social Media and the BP Crisis. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Carlson, Domenic "Internet Marketing, Social Media and the BP Crisis"

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