As BP’s oil disaster continues to ravage the Gulf Coast, the company is ramping up its public relations and legal operations to try to salvage its reputation and protect itself from lawsuits. Now, ABC News is reporting that one such tactic BP is using is purchasing search items that have the word “oil” in them on various search engines to ensure that the first results that appear link directly to BP’s official website:
BP, the very company responsible for the oil spill that is already the worst in U.S. history, has purchased several phrases on search engines such as Google and Yahoo so that the first result that shows up directs information seekers to the company’s official website.
A simple Google search of “oil spill” turns up several thousand news results, but the first link, highlighted at the very top of the page, is from BP. “Learn more about how BP is helping,” the link’s tagline reads. [...]
“We have bought search terms on search engines like Google to make it easier for people to find out more about our efforts in the Gulf and make it easier for people to find key links to information on filing claims, reporting oil on the beach and signing up to volunteer,” BP spokesman Toby Odone told ABC News.
Reflecting on BP’s latest PR tactic, marketing company executive Scott Slatin tells the Fiscal Times, “While we have seen corporations use search engine marketing to sway opinions, most recently in the health care debate, it is always under the cover of a nonprofit or lobbying organization. This is the first time I have seen a company use this tactic on such a wide scale. And it is very effective, because BP gets its message, ‘Learn more about how BP is helping,’ atop almost every Google search permutation related to the spill, and effectively blocks nonprofits (with much smaller pockets) from getting their message across.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Friday tweeted PR advice to help BP “win” the battle of public perception:
“Our friend @davidall writes about social gaming strategies that can help companies like BP win public relations battles http://bit.ly/aOXIn5.”