The Remote and the Real: Shopping for a BP Oil Spill Thong

A Selection of Thongs Related to the BP Oil Spill Available for Sale on CafePress

In his 1922 book Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann noted:

“The incidence of policy determines the relation between leader and following.  if those whom he needs in his plan are remote from the place where the action takes place, if the results are hidden or postponed, if the individual obligations are indirect or not yet due, above all if assent is an exercise of some pleasurable emotion, the leader is likely to have a free hand.”

I think about that in the context of the oil spill currently underway from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig and how different the crisis would have unfolded in decades past.  Even in the past couple of years, technology (particularly social media) has stripped leaders of their ability to keep such phenomena remote and abstract, shielding them from the public.

Google Maps Mashup Depicting BP Oil Spill

Now, we can look in directly on the results and feast at an all-u-can-eat buffet of related information:

In crisis situations, we tend to look to past crises for insight on how a new one will unfold.  The problem is, all of the technology and the rapid adoption of social networking platforms has made those past comparisons obsolete.  This is true for virtually all fields, but especially public relations which has borne the brunt of the upheaval from the communications revolution.  Trying to downplay crises with euphemistic language is deadly, as BP CEO Tony Hayward found out after comments made in past days have come back to bite him.

Anything you can imagine could be a facet of the next crisis your organization faces (even a video game based on your crisis; just wait – some programmers are likely downing cases of Red Bull feverishly coding a BP-themed oil spill video game right now).

Anti-BP Merchandise on CafePress

One would be hard pressed to make case studies older than a few  years relevant today, and yet most PR textbooks still teach the Tylenol recall scare from 1982.  If your playbook is older than 2007 – it’s time to get a new playbook.

3 thoughts on “The Remote and the Real: Shopping for a BP Oil Spill Thong

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