How Could BP Use Social Media?

In case you haven't heard, there is some bad news coming out of the Gulf of Mexico and the giant oil firm, BP, seems to have something to do with it.

What does a company do when they have a disaster on their hands and they are at fault? There is a tsunami of anger and condemnation being directed toward the company.

It is not a problem that they will ever be able to put behind them. Long after the leak is plugged and the tourists return to the beaches, there will be environmental damage for decades to come (or longer).

All that aside, could social media help BP begin the process of rebuilding its reputation and making amends to the many people impacted by their actions?

Here is a short list of things I would do if I were handling social media for BP:
  • I would hand out hundreds of Flip Camcorders to employees on the Gulf. I would ask them to document the work they are doing to help the people of the Gulf. As they hand out money, clean beaches and wetlands, lay out booms, and drill the relief well.
  • I would set up a blog to tell people what they are doing. Not the big picture corporate level actions, but name names of local fishermen or owners of charter boats who are now out of work. Reach out to these people as individuals who have names and families and businesses that they are losing.
  • Take videos and photos of BP executives and managers rolling up there sleeves and talking with ordinary people. Show the sweat. Show them working. Show concern on their faces.
  • Listen. That is the true strength of social media. Let people talk, let them vent, but listen and hear. Respond when you can, ask for contact information for follow ups and do what can be done for the individual callers.
  • Invite help and ideas. Involve the people effected by the oil spill in coming up with solutions. Explain the pros and cons of each plan. Treat people like adults.
  • Be open, transparent and accessible. Keep nothing secret. Show what you are doing without filters from public relations. You cannot sugar coat anything about this disaster, so be open instead.

What would you do if you worked for BP as a social media professional? How can social media be a tool for good in the midst of a major crises?

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June 17, 2010 at 7:30 AM Victoria Kamm said...

I probably wouldn't show the executives and managers in the Gulf at this point. Too much anger and too many gaffes. Would locals believe that C-level executives are willing to do the manual labor required to clean up this mess? I don't think so.

Better optics might be to show them at universities or other centers of knowledge consulting with engineers, professors and other brainiacs - preferably in the U.S. Lots of blueprints, charts, etc.

I agree completely with the rest. Maybe the bigger lesson is the internet, like nature, abhors a vacuum and will fill it with whatever comes along. Catching up is nearly impossible now for BP.

June 17, 2010 at 8:27 AM Charles Brown said...

Good points. I agree, don't try to fake the idea they are doing manual labor, but they are out there talking to locals or workers in the hot sun. Show some sweat, show that they are there on the scene DOING SOMETHING.

These are good lessons for all companies, even if without a crises to spur them on. People need to see people doing their work in order to relate to them. Even if one of those people makes a gazillion dollars a year.

June 18, 2010 at 4:47 AM kevin said...

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June 18, 2010 at 5:33 AM Charles Brown said...

Thank you Kevin. Obviously not all companies have challenges as big as BP, but the ideas are often the same: Humanize an organization, engage in conversations an listen.