Target: Geoff Morrell, Senior Vice President of US Communications & External Affairs at British Petroleum
Goal: Demand that BP apologize for turning a blind eye to threats made against critics of their handling of the 2010 oil spill.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, it seemed public confidence in British Petroleum couldn’t sink any lower. They were responsible for what has been called the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, when at least 4.9 million barrels of oil emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. But a public relations firm working for BP is now suspected of engaging in the harassment of critics on their BP America Facebook page. This truly represents a new low.
Thousands of pieces of evidence have come to light which show that online ‘trolls’ posted critics’ home addresses and threatened their jobs, pets, lives, and family members. It seems the federal government was aware of the situation, having asked BP to reign in the harassment. The evidence may link Ogilvy & Mather, the public relations firm that managed the page for BP, to those who committed the harassment.
The Government Accountability Project and the law firm Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor are researching these claims, thanks to a whistleblower who has remained anonymous for fear of continued threats to her safety. According to investigator Steve Lockman, “it”s not a hidden secret that the personal attacks, broadcast abuse, and type-written harassment were happening and continue to go on.”
This aggressive response to public criticism is beyond reprehensible. Tell BP executives that such vile practices must be denounced, and must not be allowed to continue. Condemn them for refusing to acknowledge the harassment, and demand they publicly apologize.
Dear Mr. Morrell,
The world is still reeling from the impacts of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Adding insult to injury, evidence has come to light that may link Oglivy & Mather to the harassment of BP critics while they worked on public relations for your company. The evidence is staggering, and yet BP has done little more than dismiss it entirely.
Despite thousands of individual documents detailing threats made on the BP America Facebook page and beyond, BP and Oglivy & Mather claim the page was moderated to prevent “threats or personal attacks of any kind.” I understand how important public relations is to you and your shareholders, and things have probably never seemed more dire on that front. In order to see improvement, your relationship with the public must be rooted in honesty and integrity.
I urge you to publicly apologize for your role in the harassment of BP’s critics, and for hiring a firm like Ogilvy & Mather that allowed such tactics and may have even employed them. Apologize for refusing to address the seriousness of this harassment. And most importantly, Mr. Morrell, commit yourself and your company to a higher standard of conduct now and in the future. That, more than anything, will improve public relations.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: US Coast Guard via Wikimedia