Is BP’s PR Plan Working?

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According to CEO Danny Sullivan,  BP’s latest PR tactic was to purchase all the Google links for any search that includes the words “oil spill” or “BP” or “gulf oil,” among other keywords. Type in any of these and the top result you see is BP’s special Gulf of Mexico Response website.  Interesting brand-in-crisis move.

Part of the reason BP did this was to control the message. Controlling the Message is of course Rule #2 of Crisis Communications 101.  (Rule #1 is Full and Immediate Transparency/Disclosure.  BP hasn’t quite gotten that one down, no doubt because it is in conflict with all of the rules of Avoiding Lawsuits 101).  BP was smart to try the Google search word approach since they got major blowback from the TV ads they purchased, which featured their lambasted CEO touting all the great work BP was doing on the cleanup.   They really didn’t have many options for getting out their message, since BP was not well established in social media prior to the crisis and wasn’t positioned to respond (take note, SM slackers!), they had to go this route.

The ultimate question is:  is it working? Since the new top-of-the-Google-charts BP link clearly says “Sponsored Link,” people know it’s not a clean search result. Or do they? And even so, are they tempted to click on their site and scan it? It would be interesting to learn if the company is getting increased hits and any positive spin from that. BP stock prices just dropped another 4%, so that may be one indicator this plan isn’t working.

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