Big Oil’s reputation has certainly soured in recent years (perhaps rightfully so). But every company reserves the right to pay for its fair shot in the court of public opinion. Even Chevron.
The company, which posted $6.2 billion in profits in the first quarter of this year, has been selling itself as an environmentally conscious outfit through its “We Agree” campaign. Salon
calls it “greenwashing”—the practice of casting a company in a positive environmental light without said company’s actually changing its destructive business habits.
Salon’s Justin Elliot received one of Chevron’s confidential presentations, presumably by accident. The presentation outlines a website that New Jersey firm Social Media Today would create to help Chevron become a major voice in the future of mobility:
It pitches the oil company on a project to build an entire website that apes journalistic outlets in form and appearance but is ultimately committed to advancing Chevron's goals. The presentation offers a window into the frontiers of greenwashing and corporate messaging on the Web.
The “Future Mobility” website would offer a forum for bloggers, Chevron execs, and reps from the National Resources Defense Council to discuss “transit issues.”
This, of course, is classic brand journalism, or the practice of companies’ tapping trained journalists to produce content. Car companies, tech firms, and government entities all practice brand journalism.
According to the Salon article, a representative from Social Media Today said the company is pitching the site to companies other than Chevron. A statement from Chevron spokesman Morgan Crinklaw to Salon seems to back this up:
The proposal you referenced in your story was not requested by Chevron nor was it created on our behalf. The company receives advertising and sponsorship solicitations from a variety of sources on a regular basis. The presentation you received is an example of one such sponsorship opportunity and does not necessarily reflect any action Chevron may take.
Check out the full slideshow here