In-house magazine as a PR plan
There are about 120 trade magazines in North America that cover the oil and petroleum industry. World Oil Magazine, for example, is a monthly publication that has been covering the upstream oil and gas industry since 1916. Petroleum News is based in Anchorage, Alaska, but is a national weekly publication. Published by the PennWell Corporation, the Oil & Gas Journal goes out weekly to more than 100,000 subscribers. And now, there is a new online publication called Planet BP.
In 2008, BP’s magazine, Frontiers, published on a monthly basis out of the UK and covered news about the company’s own innovations and accomplishments. Corporations having their own in-house magazine or newsletter are not a new concept. But Planet BP will go down as one of the most legendary because it’s dedicated to the coverage of one singular event: the gulf oil spill. It’s also receiving more press coverage prior to its release than any other corporate newsletter in history.
The Wall Street Journal reported on June 22 about BP’s reporting of its own oil spill. Myriad other outlets, including the Huffington Post, have pulled and re-published excerpts of what Time referred to as “crack reporting.” Relying on their in-house PR staff to report as the eyes and ears of the response effort, BP was probably expecting to get out ahead of the news. (BP is not taking calls regarding its in-house publication, so they could not be reached for a quote.) It’s what England’s The Independent newspaper calls “journalicist” media workers – those who combine editorial and public relations to tell the client’s story.
Despite BP’s attempt, unauthorized versions can make headlines. The über-popular Twitter feed not coming from BP called BPGlobalPR, tweets statements like: “Anyone accusing us of tarring and feathering pelicans is ignorant. They feathered themselves. #bpcares” The BPGlobalPR Twitter feed is particularly ominous to the real BP PR team because it has all the right ingredients for constant viral success: it’s on a social media platform and it’s really, really funny. But one lesson other trade publications can take away from these efforts is the power of search. When Googling “World Oil magazine,” World Oil’s website is the first search result. The same is true for Petroleum News and the Oil & Gas Journal. Guess what the first Google result is when searching for Planet BP magazine?
Some plan is better than no plan, perhaps. Director of media and public relations for California-based sustainable design firm LPA Inc., Rochelle Veturis, whose social media coaching and media relations experience has given her a wide range of opportunities, says she has not yet seen a copy of BP’s in-house magazine. However, “As with any crisis,” she wrote in an e-mail interview, “if you’re using it to react quickly and address misconceptions with solid information and a human voice, then I’m all for it.”
— Rebecca Bredholt
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