Public relations put to shame in the time it takes to pee: The @BPGlobalPR story

I just finished reading “The First Interview: Meet Josh Simpson, the man behind Twitter’s @BPGlobalPR account” and I experienced a bit of outrage. Let me take you through my thought process, and forgive me for for the lack of any depth whatsoever.

  • BP screws up.
  • People are upset, and rightfully so.
  • BP makes the awful decision of trying to cover it’s own ass before addressing the concerns of the people who are upset.
  • Anyone with any sense of empathy and moral values becomes upset.
  • A 26 year-old comedian hears about what’s going on, he’s pretty upset too.
  • A 26-year old comedian goes to pee, gets an idea.
  • A 26-year old comedian turns on his computer, logs on to Twitter, creates an account, sends a few tweets.
  • A famous movie critic retweets.
  • S***t hits the fan.
  • BP loses control of the situation and will never, ever, ever, ever be allowed to operate irresponsibly again, and its reputation will take longer to fix (if ever) than the Gulf (if ever, sadly).

And once again, public relations people are viewed as deceptive, strategically challenged… morons.And that upsets me. I’m no Albert Einstein but I don’t particularly enjoy being associated with morons.Technology, through social media, has created channels for word of mouth to spread quickly and for members of society to organize around causes. But that’s not a new concept. People have always been able to organize around causes. The individual and collective actions of those people have always affected or influenced organizations in some way. Organizations have always been able to thrive only because they have someone to cater to — a customer base, people who require their services. Public relations has the word “public” in it. So why is it so difficult for organizations to practice good (as in… for the common good, socially responsible) public relations if what should be our FIRST priority is spelled out for us right there in the name of our profession?It’s true that public relations first developed as a profession that dealt with persuasion, but those days are too far behind us to use that as an excuse or to continue to be confused about what it is we do, exactly.

It’s truly amazing that the idea that would significantly damage BP’s reputation and expose its wrongdoings in the online public sphere was conceived in the time it took for Josh Simpson to go to the bathroom. And assuming that he drinks the recommended eight glasses of water per day, that he held it in for the entire day, and washed his hands after going… that it still means that BP’s public relations strategy — or lack thereof — was hacked in less than five minutes.As for the upcoming WorldGlobalPR website, which Simpson described as,

“a hub for fake PR that encourages corporate responsibility (…) an antidote for spin.  A site where, when people want to respond to spin, can do whatever they want on there. They can publish a satirical, Onion-style article about a brand. They can create satirical graphics or logos. They can do all these things to respond to spin.”

I am nervous that it will make the public relations = spin formula even more difficult to disprove, but I am excited about the potential impact it can have — not just on the people who participate in it — but on the public relations practitioners who come across it and get a full blast of how much people dislike what they do. Nothing like a good bucket of cold water to get morons to change their filthy (read unethical) ways.A note to any AMAZING, GOOD, and HONEST public relations practitioner who may be reading this. I love you. Thanks for sticking this out with the rest of us. Keep making us all look good, please.


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