August 20, 2010
In the wake of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 — and subsequent hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilling into the water and reaching the coastline — the Twittersphere has been abuzz with related news, comments and criticism of BP and its crisis communications efforts. A month after the explosion, an anonymous writer who uses the pseudonym “Leroy Stick” launched a Twitter account called @BPGlobalPR to air his grievances about BP’s response and poke fun at the oil giant. As of press time, the handle had 190,035 followers (compared with the verified BP social media team’s account, @BP_America, which had 18, 826 followers as of press time). The parody account’s bio states: “This page exists to get BP’s message and mission statement out into the twitterverse.” Due to the success of the account, which posts several updates each day, Leroy Stick is now selling T-shirts via StreetGiant as well.
What made you decide to start the account @BPGlobalPR, and why did you select the Twitter platform for this?
I decided to start BPGlobalPR because I found BP’s own PR efforts to be disingenuous, flippant and offensive. The disaster had been going on for nearly a month, and it seemed to me that BP cared more about saving face than they cared about saving the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that they didn’t accept any responsibility for what had happened and downplayed the severity of the situation was offensive to me.
I decided to start the Twitter account because it was accessible, there was the potential to reach a large audience [and] I wanted to see if it could be used effectively for something other than self-promotion or talking about the sandwich you just ate.
Are you surprised by the attention that the Twitter feed has received?
Yes. I liked the idea, but I didn’t know what other people would think of it. I’ve been completely overwhelmed and amazed at the response.
What are the lessons here for PR pros?
Ideas get you a lot further than words. You can say what you want about your brand or your company, but ultimately it doesn’t matter if people don’t believe you. The truth will always win. Also, the Internet exists — good luck with that.
What’s your view of public relations in general?I don’t respect spin. I studied communications in college, and I quickly realized that I did not want to work in public relations. I don’t want to sell people on something — I’d rather just create something they enjoy. And if they don’t enjoy it, oh well. Plenty of people hate my Twitter [feed], but the people that love it really love it. I don’t feel like I have to go convince anyone to like what I’m doing — that’s their choice.
What do you think BP should be doing right now?
They could start by not spraying anymore dispersant into the ocean and allowing their employees to wear respirators. Then they could allow journalists and photographers to actually cover what’s going on. After that, they should take a hard look at their offshore drilling efforts and how they can feasibly save themselves. The only way they could honestly win back the respect of the American people — and the world for that matter — is if they actually led the charge toward green/renewable energy and used their existing stations and assets to make that a feasible option for the American people. That is the only way I would respect them again. Sadly, I don’t see any indication that this will happen.
Is there an example of a time you’ve seen public relations done correctly?
What Bing.com did with Stephen Colbert was pretty cool. They gave money to help the Gulf, they allowed Stephen Colbert to do his thing and they got their name out there all at the same time — pretty respectable.