3 Aug 2010

Live feeds – do they let people make up their own minds?

100 days into the BP oil disaster, there is no doubt that the company handled the PR around the incident appallingly – as mentioned by my colleague Colm O'Callaghan in an earlier blog post. Ironically, perhaps the biggest PR gain from the ordeal was being forced to open up its live feed from the remotely operated vehicles.

Since then, BP has built an entire web site around the "initiative." Whether you are of the conspiracy bent and think it is all a cover up, or a believer that the spill footage is accurate, the hit rate on BP's and other sites, says a lot about people's desire to know – a quick Google search finds 9 million pages of "BP live feed" and YouTube users have created a further 1600 entries (admittedly many of them are from people with "proof" of the conspiracy.)

Perhaps the interest stems from BP's initial closed-lip policy, which left most wondering what they were trying to hide. Perhaps the chance to see for themselves, rather than rely on the corporate spin machine, was the motivation. As one blogger, Amy Judd summed it up in mid-July: "Many are looking at the live feed link to make sure no oil can be seen leaking in to the water."

Interestingly, once the feed was in the public domain, the online backlash against BP started to turn (well, a little bit). Instead of blanket condemnation, commentators started talking about the "extraordinary" lengths BP was taking. Public comments in response to CNN and BBC articles moved from indignant outrage at the corporate machine to cautious optimism that a solution was just around the corner.

Obviously, this will not counteract the bad publicity around the world's worst oil spill, but it has certainly put a "cap" on it.

A similar phenomenon was seen during the height of the Iceland volcano eruptions. PR was obviously not an issue here – I don't think the volcano was overly concerned about public backlash – but there was a similar amount of gloom and doom in the opening days; travelers stranded, airlines losing massive revenue, tourism destroyed, whole economies suffering.

But with the ash cloud on again/off again, people turned to the live feed from the volcano itself for "accurate" information. One friend traveling from the UK told me she checked the footage herself the morning of the flight to decide whether it was worth making the taxi ride to the airport.

Link: the original live feed site (obviously without a feed now). It's worth making the journey just to play the Volcanic Airways game!

Michelle Walkden

Communications consultant

So, who’s JG Communication? We’re Sweden’s largest and, we think, ‘leading’ communications agency in Sweden. We help our clients have conversations with the people that matter most to them using the tools that matter most to us, words, sound and vision

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1 comment:

Omer Rosenbaum said...

Live feeds mainly give us the feeling of control as we feel informed but also open for manipulations by spin doctors and other stake holders.