Is BP Conducting a 'Stealth' PR Campaign in the South?

Daily Beast: Oil Company Giving Local Agents a 'Blank Check'

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In the wake of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Coast states have not-so-quietly demanded that BP foot the bill for tourism advertising. Who can blame them? The company is likely willing to do anything to restore it's name. And the states do have a point: judging by the tone of the media coverage, you'd think the beaches in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida were under six inches of black gold. Not so. Not yet at any rate. (True story: My mom texted me a photo from the beach in Alabama.) It's also worth pointing out that the tourism industry is vital to these states (especially as the fisheries get devastated by the oil) and even their wildest advertising expenses are a pittance compared to BP's daily profits.

But according to Rick Outzen, writing for The Daily Beast, this is part of a much bigger stealth "propaganda blitz" by the petroleum company. Citing unnamed sources in the oil industry, Outzen, publisher and editor of alternative Florida newsweekly the Independent News, writes:

The ground operatives in this propaganda blitz: locally-owned or affiliated companies -- mostly those that either supply or own the BP stations. Specifically, while BP has commandeered the state's tourism marketing, the oil giant wants it local marketers to buy ads, distribute flyers at their stations, hold customer appreciation days and use BP–supplied talking points to build a word-of-mouth campaign to "diffuse or deflect negative commentary" about the BP oil spill, according [to] sources inside the oil industry.

And the company is footing the entire bill for affiliates to do so. Some would call that stealthy. Then again, I'm sure plenty on this side of the industry would call that "crisis management." What do you think?

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