BP recently caught some flack for running a PPC campaign targeting oil spill search terms.

Worse, due to lack of professional feedback on what this means many news stories presented this as an insidious scheme to buy the actual search terms.

Gulf oil spill news about BP SEO & PPC

Running a paid search campaign in response to the disaster is a great idea and can be a solid tactic. What’s lacking is a strategy that provides the guide lines for why we are doing what.

The ARM Response: The Why & What

The ARM response is effective because it folds back onto itself and thus helps people to keep rule of thumbs front and center at the heat of the moment. The acronym tells you what you’re doing while its components also define the goal, the why.



My first rule of thumb when it comes to arguments is you can’t f..uh…. you can’t mess with reality.

Arguing against what anyone can see is simply the case, is useless. To state that it’s sunny and dry outside when anyone can see it rains; waste of time.

As a scientist you might have a Higher Truth to work towards and feel the need to attack the Flat Earth theory. Fine. But we’re markerters, PR people, SEO’ers and in general business people who would love to diminish the amount of damage done to our brand once it is in trouble. Our higher truth are the people who rely on the income our businesses generate.

So: acknowledge. The world has become transparent; nothing can be hidden. Not fighting reality, perceived or real, but acknowledging it is the very first step, the fundament, of your strategy in the media space, social and other.

Acknowledging what has happened and what concerns people about it disarms the conversation almost right away. Instead of causing a flood of “I’ll show you!” articles, saying “I hear you, we see this too and we’re concerned too” removes the need for pushback.

As a result, searches in the social space for your company’s brand or blunder show you owning up; you’re engaged in a real conversation yet not playing a mea culpa card.

Example acknowledgement: “I read your post about the impact of the oil spill on the environment. Sounds strange maybe coming from an oil company CEO but I’m concerned about that too. Obviously oil isn’t good for animals and such. I’m not going to argue the size or the timeline here; any animal impacted by this is one too many, if your heart is at the right place.”


Crude oil - Orange Beach, AL

With acknowledgment being the first step, response starts to create a conversation.

Remember, this is not a “I don’t wanna!” situation. The conversation is taking place; you only get to decide if you’re going to be part of it or not.

Injecting yourself into those conversations helps you to bring the conversation back to constructive issues vs. an all out negative attack against your brand.

In BP’s case you’d be asking “what can we do?” and share “here’s what we’re doing”

Example response: “Hi Nick, I’m interested in learning what other techniques we can use. On that note, we’ve organized a beach oil containment action near you this Saturday and would like to invite you to join. How can we reach you?”



As you acknowledge people’s issues and respond to them on the basis of that acknowledgement, you effectively start to moderate the conversations.

Make yourself the center of the discussion: own the conversation by being the active part of it. Insist on workable, constructive participation in the discussing, effectively marginalizing those who come in with purely negative messages. We can have the ideal world discussion later but right now, let’s talk solutions.

Moderate also applies to your own people. Make sure key speakers and indeed anyone in the company knows what to say and how to respond. Share the ARM strategy with them.

Finally, be moderate. To take the environmental impact as an example, don’t deny that impact but don’t overstate it either.


  • Create landing pages for each of the discussion points you acknowledge, respond and moderate. Use shortcut URL’s to quickly guide people to pages written in real human language, not corporate PR nonsense, about what goes on with that subject.
  • Host videos, images and stories even if they’re not flattering to you. If people need to (hot)link something it might as well be you.