Posted May 3, 2010 10:13 am by with 0 comments

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I’m not sure if this signifies a new era of cooperation between the private sector and government agencies but apparently man made natural disasters can create strange bedfellows. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is grabbing headlines has created a new website that is jointly managed by not only the companies involved (British Petroleum and Transocean) but also many of the government agencies looking to get this situation under control.

ReadWriteWeb reports

Now that oil from the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon is heading for landfall on the Gulf Shore, social media is out front again. A collaborative multimedia website, Gulf of Mexico – Deepwater Horizon Incident, rich in social media, has been launched information for those who are or might be hit.

The site is being maintained by British Petroleum, who own the oil; Transocean, who own the rig; the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Department.

A Flickr slideshow, hosted by U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District External Affairs, plays at center, beside a clickable list of news items and documents, some in PDF format. Links are provided to the service’s Twitter account, Oil_Spill_2010 and its Facebook page, Deepwater Horizon Response. The response team’s YouTube page is at Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

What this shows is that there is no chance to hide anymore for anyone when news of a disaster or tragedy strikes. In my opinion, this is one of the true benefits of social media. It an even be a real benefit to the companies involved as well. When sites like this are spawned that show cooperation between the companies at fault and the government it can help diffuse the issue to some degree.

Of course, there will be knee jerk “I won’t buy any BP products ever!” responses but those are short-sighted and with little thought. You see, in the real world accidents happen. It’s how we respond that tells what kind of person or company we are.

I am not saying that the private companies are going to be getting away scot-free. As more and more information about the cause of this comes to light there will be more ability to see whether this is something that could have been prevented. However, by getting as far out in front of this as possible BP and Transocean will surely take their lumps but they will also be viewed as being as straight-forward as possible. It would be hard for anyone to say that they are not cooperating with the government when an effort like this exists.

So what does this teach us about social media and reputation management? Probably nothing new but it serves as a reminder that being up front and as forthcoming as possible (you can register for updates at the site) at least lets the world know you are paying attention.

The court of public opinion won’t be done this one for a long time. Exxon still suffers from the ill effects of the Valdez incident that happened over 20 years ago. Would that whole thing looked different is there was the same social media opportunities that exist today?