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How oil and water are shaping images

It’s a tough time to be on the team trying to salvage BP’s public image. With oil from its sunken rig reaching beaches in at least four states now, the company has no shortage of critics.

One of those critics owns a Twitter account called BPGlobalPR. He goes by the pseudonym Leroy Stick and he’s gotten under the skin of the global oil giant.

About a month ago, Stick established his parody account to take few shots at the corporation, framing the tweets as though they were coming from BP’s public relations staff.

I started @BPGlobalPR, because the oil spill had been going on for almost a month and all BP had to offer were bullshit PR statements.  No solutions, no urgency, no sincerity, no nothing.  That’s why I decided to relate to the public for them.

Howard Beale would be proud.

As the account began to pick up steam — it currently has more than 150,000 followers — BP called for its owner to clarify that the posts weren’t coming from them.

Stick obliged. The bio on the account used to say that it existed to “get BP’s message and mission statement out into the twitterverse!” Now it reads, “We are not associated with Beyond Petroleum, the company that has been destroying the Gulf of Mexico for 53 days.” The number is being updated daily.

Oops.

“The dust-up about BP’s request only generated more attention for the fake feed,” Brian Stelter wrote yesterday for the New York Times‘ Media Decoder blog.

Taking advantage of his new soapbox, Stick offered a few ideas about the value of image:

Do you want to know what BP should do about me?  Do you want to know what their PR strategy should be?  They should fire everyone in their joke of a PR department … and focus on actually fixing the problems at hand.

So what is the point of all this?  The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND.  You don’t own it because it is literally nothing.  You can spend all sorts of time and money trying to manufacture public opinion, but ultimately, that’s up to the public, now isn’t it?

Corporations spend a lot of time and money cultivating their public image. But sometimes, things go wrong and that persona can crumble. Ask AirTran or Xe.

You might remember that AirTran used to be called ValueJet. It got an image makeover following a crash in the Everglades in 1996 that killed 110 people. Xe is the odd new name adopted by Blackwater, the private security firm that came under intense fire for its operations in Iraq.

Like the Exxon Valdez, BP’s name will forever be tied to the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. In the midst of the crisis, debate rages concerning the company’s chances for recovery.

On the other hand, Stick’s image continues to build tweet by tweet. By continuing to stir the pot in relative anonymity, he is skillfully crafting his own persona using just a Twitter account and a few Web pages.

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