I’m sure the Marketing and PR teams at Shell have had better days than today. You may have seen in the news today that Greenpeace staged a campaign that caused the shutdown of 74 petrol stations in the UK. Greenpeace’s motivation for the protest was as a direct result of Shell’s plans to start exploratory drilling in the Arctic. Not the most politically sensitive subject. And there are certainly not a lot of positives to find within that subject.
Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic has given birth to possibly the greatest social media hijacking that I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s been so successful that one of my LinkedIn connections even posted a link to the hijacked site, under the impression that it was indeed genuine. On face value, there was nothing suspicious however upon further examination of the content, it’s clear that something isn’t right.
Our story actually begins a few years ago with the Deepwater horizon disaster. A Twitter account was registered purporting to be BP’s PR and began tweeting false messages which caused a huge amount of damage to BP’s brand. Eventually BP upped it’s game however it was never able to attract as many followers as the bogus site. Earlier this year, inspired by the bogus BP account, a Twitter account was registered, pretending to be an official Shell account. In fact, to gain legitimacy, respect and followers, it even retweeted official Shell tweets and engaged in conversation with the official feed. Once it had established itself, the guerrilla marketing began, with a series of messages, which portrayed Shell as an environmentally irresponsible firm that was only interested in profits and damaging the planet. The campaign naturally went viral and gave the legal team at Shell yet more sleepless nights as they attempted to track down the owner of the site – naturally Twitter refused to give up details of the owner of the account as it is not an issue of national security. The campaign to damage the Shell brand took yet a further twist with the launch of the utterly brilliant Arctic Ready website – http://arcticready.com/social/gallery
Arctic Ready looks just like a Shell website, with appropriate links back to the Shell homepage and navigation toolbar however rather than being a Shell news site, the site is user generated and appears to encourage visitors to create their own content to support the plans for Shell to drill in the Arctic, by voting for the images to support the marketing campaign. Visitors can also share, like and post their favourite campaign to their social media platform of choice. Naturally, there are a lot of people out there who are just desperate to create content that could possibly damage the Shell brand. Great content such as this:
I’m sure you’ll agree, the images look fantastic, and look like they could easily be official Shell advertising. So, what should a business do if it finds itself having its brand hijacked? Throw legal at the problem? Yes this is probably the number one option for any organisation, but, to be honest, it’s not an effective way as it causes further problems and resentment. You’re certainly not going to win over those who hold a different view to you. Quite simply, if you’re organisation has PR issues, you could always increase your levels of transparency, highlighting the benefits of what you are doing and attempt to engage and communicate with those who are against your brand. You may not necessarily win friends but you will certainly earn their respect by listening to their thoughts and opinions.