ExxonMobil WOM Campaign Backfires

by | Feb 7, 2007

ExxonMobil recently launched a word of mouth campaign and tried to court public opinion by reaching out to green writers from blogs like The Oil Drum, Watthead, Energy Bulletin, and Environmental Law Prof Blog, Environmental Economics reports.

The impetus could have been a January report from the Union of Concerned Scientists that claimed ExxonMobil used disinformation tactics to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and to delay action on the issue. According to the report, ExxonMobil had funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

In the report’s wake, stories reported that Exxon Mobil had stopped funding groups that downplayed the risks of greenhouse emissions.

In the conference call with green bloggers, Ken Cohen, vice president for public relations with ExxonMobil, delivered the message that Exxon now agrees that climate change is really happening, the debate on the science is over, and the right question now is what the proper policy response should be, Oil Drum reports.

PR agency APCO scheduled and moderated the call, according to Environmental Economics.

Reactions to the call were mixed. Environmental Economics titled its post about the conference call “Speaking with the Enemy.” The Oil drum “wasn’t moved enough to want to write about it.”

Shortly after the conference call, articles about the company’s ties to the American Enterprise Institute, a group that allegedly offered scientists $10,000, plus travel and other expenses, to highlight the shortcomings in IPCC’s Climate Change report, began appearing.

Green bloggers quickly turned their attention to these allegations, but now used the conference calls as evidence that what ExxonMobil says and does are two separate things.

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