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Times of Crisis Are No Time For Playing Games

by mturk

In a post for PR News Online, self-described ‘GOP web 2.0 consultant’ David All suggests a strategy for BP to use games and foursquare badges to clean up its PR problems. I couldn’t disagree more.

There is a legitimate point to suggest that companies innovate, and invest in games to promote their brand, and even their issue advocacy goals.  There is simply no way you can convince me that doing so during a crisis/disaster is a good idea.

David suggests a number of different approaches to his idea:

Now imagine a game — call it “Coastal Cleanup” — that connects people online for a good cause in their local communities offline. Volunteers could “check in” at locations via Foursquare and unlock badges for their volunteer efforts.

The last thing BP needs is a series of posts saying, “I earned the Greasy Spoon Badge for cleaning crude oil off of a pelican on FourSquare.”  Can you imagine a parade of “Scrubbing muck off of waterfowl (@ BP’s eco-disaster)” tweets?

Worse yet, releasing a game called Coastal Cleanup while your oil leak is threatening animals and vegetation across hundreds of miles of beach doesn’t say, “we’re socially responsible” it says, “This whole thing is a game to us.”

It would be the equivalent of a game that let you take control of the Exxon Valdez and do slaloms with cartoon icebergs – it would be in incredibly poor taste.

About two years ago, Burger King released a Facebook app that asked you to sacrifice a friend for a whopper.  Can you imagine them doing so after a mass shooting at a restaurant?

Games can be tremendously valuable and used effectively to tell your story.  But playing games during a crisis tells the world you don’t take the situation seriously.  It sends a message that playing around is more important than paying the price for your mistakes.

That’s not good crisis communications.