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PR disaster aside, BP should leave satire alone

Columnist says BP should lay off of a satirical Twitter account.
Columnist says BP should lay off of a satirical Twitter account.
  • Oil disaster also demonstrates how social networking can create PR nightmares
  • Subversive social activism through Twitter isn't going anywhere
  • Twitter can also be a powerful, virtually anonymous tool

Damon Brown is a northern California-based freelance writer and author of books including "Damon Brown's Simple Guide to the iPad" and "Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture."

(CNN) -- The BP Gulf Coast oil disaster is now officially the worst in American history, but it will also be remembered for showing how public relations nightmares are created in the social networking age.

Exhibits A -through-Z? Twitter account @bpglobalpr with its 175,000 followers. And based on recent developments, such subversive social activism through Twitter isn't going anywhere.

Run by a mysterious figure known by the handle "Leroy Stick," this fake BP Global Public Relations Twitter page has cutting commentary like:

"Now that we're done testifying before Congress, it's fairly safe to say the worst part of this is over.#bpcares"

"If you must cry over this oil spill, please don't do it in the gulf. Saltwater ruins our oil.#everydropcounts"

"Obama wants us to start a liability account to pay spill victims. We'd rather not, but thanks for asking! #bpcares"

Many use Twitter to share info about their business, but Twitter can also be a powerful, virtually anonymous tool. Earlier this month, BP asked Twitter to shut down the account, claiming customers are confusing it with theBP_America Twitter account (with its paltry 15,517 followers -- Ha!).

However, the BP Global PR Twitter account is classified as parody, which would make it the equivalent of NBC getting asked by the Palin campaign to stop doing SNL sketches for fear of confusion.

The shutdown attempt failed, and it not only painted BP as more of a corporate bad guy, but it pushed the BP Global PR parody further into the spotlight.

It may be against PR 101, but the sometimes hilarious, always saddening tweets create a "The Onion"-inspired outlet for public frustration. Furthermore, "Leroy Stick" was able to use his popular feed to raise several thousand dollars for the Gulf cleanup.

Don't expect the Twitter-as-corporate-bully trend to go away anytime soon: The new AT&T Wireless PR has already began skewering the iPhone 4-carrying company.


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