BP Oil spill and the Search Results – Good PR or good for nothing?

Try a few searches on Google for “bp oil spill” or even better…try “oil spill response” and you will find some very interesting results. The first of which is British Petroleum buying keywords to “manipulate the search results” as Kieth Olbermann pointed out this evening on MSNBC.  ABC may have broken the new first with their take on BP Buys Search Engine Phrases. This would be a good first step in online reputation management and may backfire as the disaster is certainly going to cost BP, America, The Gulf Coast, and our planet more than just a few pennies per click.

While on the surface of things, it may seem like a great way to start changing hearts and minds of America it will not. And it is way to little way to late. The current situation in the BP has created could have been avoided in the first place. While I don’t care to go into all of the details of who, how, and why [as I am not an expert in this area]; the BP oil spill should serve as a major warning to those companies who are facing a nasty online reputation management situation.

If you care about your brand and company…act accordingly in the first place. None of us as individuals or companies have the ability or service level to execute and deliver without a flaw. This should be expected as nothing goes without a bump or hiccup. The point is; once you have soiled your reputation, the damage done may be more than you could have imagined. No matter how much money you spend on Google Ad Words or Yahoo! Search Marketing or search engine optimization or FaceBook…it simply will be too late for any type of damage control.

What makes matters worse for BP is the “oil spill response” number one result. It is Oilspillresponse.com. It is a collaborate effort from major oil companies extolling their collective ability to respond to oil spills. Obviously this is complete and utter B.S. I’ve yet to hear any other oil company coming to the aid of America or British Petroleum. BP and other companies can drill in deep waters very well…but they cannot fix a catastrophe if there is one. In fact, oil response technology has not change very much in the past 30 years. Drill baby drill indeed.

BP stock is down, they may face criminal charges, potential costs of $4,500 per barrel spilled, and have caused the worst environmental disaster ever. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of companies who take ownership of their brands, products, and services. However, BP has proven it only takes on mistake with one client can cause the biggest reputation management problem without a solution.

Let them spend millions on keywords and SEO experts. No matter what they do, BP will be permanently destroyed because of gross negligence and praying to the dollar almighty. The time has returned for being 100% responsible for what you do, say, and produce. It is not okay too ask too much and return too little. It is not okay to act first and ask questions later. It is not okay to risk things that are not yours to risk. It is not okay to jeopardize ANYTHING with out real deep risk assessment. It is not okay to walk away without taking responsibility and fixing what has been broken. Time to pay the piper and time for 100% accountability.

At one time Enron was one of the biggest accounting firms in the world. No they are not and their CEO is in jail along with a few Enron executives. If you think BP is too big to fail…you are wrong. If you think your online reputation can survive any storm…you are wrong. In the end, nothing will save BP and nothing will bring back our coast lines. Buy baby buy…but it won’t help you now.

The big take away here is this; things happen, life happens, mistakes happen. Consumers and customers can forgive…and forget. But some mistakes are simply too much, too big, and too costly. My grandfather always said, “Plan your work and work your plan.” I suggest doing likewise. One thing is for certain…BP was totally unprepared for something like this. Welcome to day 49 of the BP oil spill disaster.