Under the microscope: Chevron's video tactics

Chevron recently produced a video to tell its side of a $27 billion lawsuit it is facing in Ecuador.

Chevron recently produced a video to tell its side of a $27 billion lawsuit it is facing in Ecuador. It hired a former CNN correspondent to narrate the video, which included interviews with Chevron executives that disputed the company is at fault in the case accusing Texaco – owned by Chevron – of polluting the rainforest.

Days after the Chevron video appeared, a planned 60 Minutes segment on the lawsuit aired, prompting criticism of the company's production. The video was posted on the company's corporate Web site and branded YouTube channel, but did not explicitly state it was Chevron-made.

What does it mean?
Dave Samson, GM of public affairs at Chevron, said the company created the video because it didn't believe coverage of the lawsuit was fair. It directed reporters to the video, and sent it to key stakeholders, and he believed it did so transparently. “Anyone who came across it would [know] that it was produced by us,” Samson said. Video sourcing is an issue that's plagued the PR industry before. In 2007, the FCC fined Comcast $20,000 for airing unidentified VNRs on its stations. Simply putting a video online doesn't make it a VNR, but given the increasing call for transparency from consumers, some believe the company should have done more, like adding a company logo. “The problem with the Chevron video is it misleads the public into thinking it's a real news story,” said Rich Klein, VP at Beckerman PR and head of its law firm practice.

Where do we go from here?
The video is indicative of new communication tactics in play for lawsuit defense. Klein noted that defendants and their attorneys are more willing to use media “to match what the plaintiff's attorneys are doing.” Because of online news' viral nature, the video's corporate origins could become lost, so a logo would maintain transparency.

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