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More Lessons in PR and Parody by BP?

A dead turtle lies in the surf as concern continues that the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may harm animals in its path on May 3, 2010 in Bay St Louis, Mississippi.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
A dead turtle lies in the surf as concern continues that the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may harm animals in its path on May 3, 2010 in Bay St Louis, Mississippi.

BP Global PR is now giving lessons in public relations.

Not really.

Last week I bloggedabout someone who is spoofing BP's crisis management efforts under the Twitter name @BPGlobalPR.

The spoofer was barreling toward 100,000 followers as of Tuesday night.

"I've gotta say, at night the gulf really doesn't look that bad," was one of his or her latest tweets, along with "As part of our continued re-branding effort, we are now referring to the spill as 'Shell Oil's Gulf Coast Disaster'".

It's just one sign of how crazy fallout from the oil spill has gotten. Other signs include the new BP "commercial" made by the Second City comedy troupe: "Brown is the new green".

Maybe the craziest sign—the EPA is looking into the Abyss of this Titanic problem and consulted director James Cameron for ideas.

But nothing has caught fire (sorry) like @BPGlobalPR.

Many people, including yours truly, have been trying to determine the identity of the prankster behind it. No luck so far. However, I have learned his/her approach to successful crisis management through an article appearing in the Guardian. "I want to start this article by giving you a formal 'you're welcome' to the Guardian and the good people of Britain for all the great work we've been doing," @BPGlobalPR begins. "You know, a lot of people still think BP stands for British Petroleum and they're very mad at you. Just sayin'."

Crisis_In_The_Gulf_badge.jpg

He/she then lays out the "truth" about public relations.

"Honestly, 90% of the time and when things are going well, our work is incredibly easy. We work about three or four hours a day and we spend most of it messing around on social networking sites and taking personal phone calls. However, the other 10% of the time, when the client is in trouble, the job can be tough."

@BPGlobalPR then provided steps for a successful public relations campaign, using its own tweets as examples (remember, this is not the REAL BP PR department).

Steps include:

1. Acknowledge the problem without acknowledging specifics. This was our very first tweet:

@BPGlobalPR: We regretfully admit that something has happened off of the Gulf Coast. More to come.

2. Be open about one piece of bad news and no more. You want to appear human, but you don't want to appear like a bunch of idiots. There's another word I'd use there, but I don't think I can. It rhymes with mickleticks.

@BPGlobalPR: Sadly we can no longer certify our oil as Dolphin Safe.

3. Threaten legal action if anyone crosses a line. You're in PR, but you need to make sure you flex your muscle and establish some ground rules.

@BPGlobalPR: Please do NOT take or clean any oil you find on the beach. That is the property of British Petroleum and we WILL sue you.

4. Choose the language for your campaign and you change the dialogue. For instance, people have called this oil spill an unmitigated disaster, an oilpocalypse and a catastrophe. So I spun it here…

@BPGlobalPR: Catastrophe is a strong word, let's all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy … and sure enough almost every pundit calls it a "whoopsie daisy" now. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

The truth is, of course, that a well-run crisis PR campaign is one where the public doesn't even realize there's PR involved. The message appears genuine. No one feels manipulated. That's what makes @BPGlobalPRso hilarious. It's so out there, so badly.

But things may be changing. While the real BP has so far ignored the prank, the fake BP PR department just announced it has a new boss—someone who once worked for Dick Cheney. "Just had our first meeting with our new boss. She made us watch a video of an autopsy...as a team-building exercise." I sense another crisis coming.

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