Chevron’s video shows new communication tactics

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To combat a $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron-owned Texaco in Ecuador, Chevron produced a video to tell its side of the situation. The lawsuit accuses Texaco of polluting the rainforest, and the video includes interviews with Chevron executives disputing that the company is at fault. Former CNN correspondent Gene Randall was hired to narrate the video.

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Days after the Chevron video appeared, a planned 60 Minutes segment aired on the lawsuit, which led to criticism of the company’s video production. The video did not explicitly state that it was made by Chevron, but it was posted on both the company’s corporate Web site and the company’s YouTube channel.

Dave Samson, GM of pubic affairs at Chevron, said the company created the video because it did not think coverage of the lawsuit was fair. The company directed reporters to the video and sent it to key stakeholders, and he believes they 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 VNR 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.

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 the viral nature of online news, the video’s corporate origins could become lost, so transparency would be maintained with a logo.

If the judge rules against Chevron, the company could face the largest damages award ever handed down in an environmental case, dwarfing the $3.9 billion awarded against ExxonMobil for the 1989 spill in Alaska.

Click here on the Chevron site for videos on the lawsuit and situation in Ecuador.

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