July 22, 2012

Ooops Greenpeace!


This week I attended a public affairs conference entitled True Spin, held by the Walkleys/MEAA.

There were conflicts, inconsistencies and knowledge gaps that struck me during the presentations at the conference, but one thing that consistently stood out was the consensus that Shell had badly dealt with Greepeace’s Let’s Go! arctic campaign.

Disappointingly, while several presenters were happy to pile on Shell for their lack of issues management savvy, not one suggested a course of action that could have proved successful for Shell.

I have to admit that the answer does not come easily to me either, which is why I’m less prepared to damn Shell for their inadequacy.

Since then I’ve been pondering what I would have done, and have come to the conclusion that I would have advised Shell to take out full page ads with the text provided below, backed up by a good old fashioned media release that includes a Shell estimate of how much a slick website like that would have cost to establish and run.

I chose MSM rather than social media because corporate messages on Facebook and particularly Twitter can be too easily highjacked: there’s a greater chance that your message will remain undiluted if it’s distributed by the mainstream media via new media platforms than if you do it yourself.

Similarly, the call to action is through email and not Facebook or Twitter where the message can quickly be highjacked and distorted.

So, this is the text of the full page I think Shell should have placed. What do you think they should have done?

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Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. Interesting idea. Main issue is that the Greenpeace campaign highlighted the hypocrisy of Shell in its greenwashing efforts, compared to their real actions. Splashing full-page ads criticising an advocacy organisation for advocating just reinforces the idea that Greenpeace is promoting.

    I think Shell did the right thing by saying nothing. Nothing they could’ve said would make things better, and they’re not able to come out and promise to “fix” their environmental vandalism. Keeping mum is best option.

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    • Before the advent of social media, I might have agreed that it was best to stay silent and deprive it of oxygen. But that rule just doesn’t apply any more.

      And in this case, where everyone was taken for a fool, Shell would have been seen to be helping people see through the campaign – particularly those who are not activists themselves.

      Greenpeace was too smart by half with this campaign, but no-one is going to criticise them for it now because they were all played for fools.

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      • Oooops Dragonista, you over-look two points.
        1. Social media is not be all and end all. The google-monster is always there,
        search-term >>`oil+spill+shell`

        2. `Played for fools`? Only folks who make cash from this industry will feel like this. Everyone else? I suspect not so much.

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    • I agree with Alex fully, GP and `Yes-Men` punked Shell-Oil for green-washing. Nothing Shell can do.

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  2. Perhaps that’s because Shell would have been trying to defend the indefensible. If Shell said anything they would be drawing attention to their own activities of Arctic drilling. So they would attempting to scaore an own goal. Their lack of media probably serves to confirm they have arrved at the same conclusion.

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    • You’re right in saying that if a company has an indefensible product / practice then they should drop it, but defensibility is in the eye of the beholder. Greenpeace undermined the attention they drew to the “indefensibility” of Shell’s practices by treating everyone as fools. Greenpeace are the ones who scored the own goal.

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    • Ask yourself, in 12 months’ time, will this campaign be remembered as the one which hurt Shell or the one where everyone was sucked in by a Greenpeace hoax?

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  3. The positions of GP and Shell are incomparable. This is a very asymmetric struggle, with Shell having money and power ( and influence over governments ). GP have to play at the edge or outside of the “rules” to compete. This is nothing new.
    So in your attack on GP, you are doing the “establishment” thing of crying foul and defending the powerful and protected.
    Maybe if you were around in Goliath’s time, you would have decried David’s sling as being “indefensible”.

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    • I wish I could agree with you, but the argument doesn’t hold water. Go back to Drag0nista’s question, “Ask yourself, in 12 months’ time, will this campaign be remembered as the one which hurt Shell or the one where everyone was sucked in by a Greenpeace hoax?”

      Shell won’t be affected by it in the least. In a sense it’s not even so much the hoax aspect. I’m not so sure people mind a good hoax if it serves its purpose. It’s whether the donated money could have been better spent.

      It’s all a matter of opinion. GP thinks it was effective. I very much doubt it.

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      • .. “not agreeing with me” and ” the argument not holding water” are completely different things. The only thing they have in common is that they are your opinion.
        Neither you nor I can realistically predict the longer term impact of the GP action or how it will be perceived. You are making a judgement that you can, whilst I am pointing out that there is an assymetry and that GP may have to use tactics that some find disagreeable.

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  4. There’s a slick non-sequitur in each paragraph of your response. 1. They are different things but the fact they are my opinion is not the only thing they have in common. 2. It was obvious that I approved of unorthodox tactics if they worked. You can hang on grimly to my assertion that Shell won’t be affected in twelve months if you like. Anyone who’s not naive about corporation management of public criticism would regard what Drag0nista claimed on this in her piece, and which I repeated, as axiomatic.

    Try going to the street and asking the first twenty people you meet who are willing to give you the time of day what they think of it. You’d be lucky to find even one who knows what you’re talking about. QED.

    Feel free to have the last word.

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About Drag0nista

Political blogger and columnist on the interwebs. Former Liberal staffer and industry lobbyist. Studying the entrails of federal politics since 1989. Otherwise known as Paula Matthewson.

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