“You can’t make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire.
All you’re doing is recording it.”
We are now 60 days – two full months – into this ecological disaster. Few even mention the eleven platform workers killed when the Deepwater Horizon first blew apart on 20-21 April. BP and TransOcean and Haliburton have danced through the Kibuki Theater of Congressional Hearings, blaming each other for the blowout and yet spinning post-facto admissions that they struggled to keep up with the others’ incompetence. The evidence of indifference to safety concerns on behalf of BP’s management continues to leak into the press. And through it all, @bpTerry continues to work hard to broaden the outreach and impact of @BPGlobalPR:
But who is this guy, and what do his efforts portend for social media and brand allegiance/control?
On 8 July, the shadowy figure of ‘Terry’ (@bpTerry) gave an online interview to Dan Harris of ABC News. His identity must be protected because ‘I work for the company’ (whether ‘the company’ is BP or the apocraphal BPGlobalPR is left tantalizingly vague). The satirist continued his interview by pointing out that his company came up with ‘Top Kill,’ which he figures bought BP about a week of ‘they’re on top of this’ from the public. He also jabbed at his own avocation, by pointing out the effort (‘sometimes 4-5 hours a day’) that PR folks have to go through to get an idea up-and-running.
We first posted an entry about Terry’s work two weeks ago (And thanks again for those who pointed out the error on the name of the Twitter account!), and listed a few of our faves. Since then, BPGlobalPR has pointed out such truisms and stretegeries as:
MMS approved 13 new BP deepwater wells! We’ll be sending a really nice cocaine and whores gift basket.
If the public is willing to call tar balls “fancy BP pearls”, we are willing to admit that they exist. #bpcares
We’re not blocking all reporters from the gulf – just the ones who aren’t going to say nice things about us. #goldenrule
Yes! @SeanHannity doesn’t blame us! We’d hire him, but the feds say we’ve got one too many gaping holes spewing garbage.
And a personal favorite:
Opening more wells in the Gulf! We’re drilling for ALL the oil down there to ensure this never happens again. #4yoursafety
(Note also the periodic use ofused by pbTerry, which are often just the bons mots that drive the sarcasm of the posts.)
In the interview, pbTerry also challenged the Twitter phenomenon itself. “Companies hire people like me to come in and make their public presence known. Twitter is just something we have not wrapped our minds around yet, to be quite honest. Any bozo in in his underpants can start a Twitter account and write about stuff his dad says and he is now as famous as Robin Williams! What we’re trying to do is grasp the Twitter concept, control the dialogue, and try to find some way to make money out of it.”
In fact, BPGlobalPR IS making money out of it: many tens of thousands of dollars have been sent to charities working in the Gulf, albeit from the sale of ‘BP Cares’ T-shirts. But there’s still more to be done, of course. Private security guards have to be hired to keep photographers back, search terms have to be bought from Google, and (with over 130 thousand followers on the account now, in contrast to to the 11 thousand @BP_America) Terry points out that “we’re spending billions on this Twitter account, so we ought to get something.”
Indeed, perhaps the question being begged is how does an organization keep hold of its brand and image when, yes, any bozo in a hoodie can set up a social-media account that may or may not be stating the organization’s official positions? Ten times as many people follow pbTerry as follow the company who, ostensibly, really is trying to stop the leaks. Is any publicity really good publicity? What if we all smile through our tears, buy a t-shirt, a go back to our Escalades and Rangers? Is bpTerry helping us amuse ourselves to death?
As Dan Harris comments upon in his interview (from which we have taken all the quotes), it is not always clear when bpTerry is speaking as a satirist and when he breaks out of that role to state the burden of the crisis in the Gulf. Harris points specifically to the tweet of 3 June that we noted in a previous post:
These are exactly the kinds of photographs we don’t want you to see: http://tinyurl.com/2465cbg – WARNING: truly heartbreaking
PBTerry nicely turned the tables on Mr. Harris (is his satirist top hat back on?) to point out that the ‘truly heartbreaking’ point was that the photos were published: “Really, who does that help? Who wants to see dead birds?”
Which leads us to ask if he is satirizing in this next post (of 14 June), or pointing out that the terrible tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon only seems the worst in so far as it’s the one Americans are paying attention to?
We honestly didn’t think this was going to be a huge deal. No one cares when this happens in Nigeria. http://ow.ly/1YuwZ
The link takes you to a report at boingboing.net (including video interviews):
Over the last 50 years, foreign oil companies have spilled over 1.5 million tons of oil here, but there have been no legal convictions against them, and no compensation for spill victims. The Niger Delta is now one of the most polluted places in the world.
Please note that the measurement used is ‘tons,’ not ‘barrels.’ Nigeria suffers from about one Deepwater Horizon disaster EACH YEAR, but because Nigeria is far away and we need our oil… We can and should laugh at BP and PBGlobalPR. But we should also cry. Better yet, we should change some things about how, where, and why we destroy people and the environment for this one energy source. But bpTerry is too smart not to turn his focus on us as well:
SPOILER ALERT: The leak stops eventually, everyone forgets about it and we all buy another vacation home. #cantwait