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ShellNews.net: The Internet battleground for Shell’s reputation

1st June 2006

By Alfred Donovan

An article published on 22nd May by BrandRepubic.com (printed below) revealed Shell’s plans to appoint a digital agency to turn around the online reputation of Shell.

This represents a very considerable challenge as it is almost impossible to search for any online information relating to Shell without stumbling across websites containing negative content.

For example, if you Google “Royal Dutch Shell Plc”, the number 3 result (out of 867,000) happens to be a Wikipedia article about what is described as a “Domain name oversight”. The “oversight” was actually gross negligence on the part of Shell management which allowed me to obtain registration of the precise dotcom domain name for Royal Dutch Shell Plc (which adorns this website). Shell subsequently attempted to seize the domain name by issuing proceedings against an 88 year old war veteran, me. This act alone generated global adverse publicity for Shell in the news media and online.

OUR WEBSITES

With nearly 9,000 web pages, including news reports about Shell, our own blunt commentary, leaked Shell documents and Shell insider revelations, the two websites I operate with my son, John, represent by far and away the biggest challenge to the restoration of Shell’s reputation on the Internet. Whichever agency has the misfortune to be appointed by Shell, they have our commiserations.

Ironically, we were the founders of a marketing consultancy which had a long term highly successful relationship with Royal Dutch Shell when Shell’s reputation was riding high.

Our websites together utilise 15 Shell related domain names. The one which operated under the royaldutchshellplc.com and tellshell.net domain names crashed last week due to the unprecedented drain of available bandwidth. The bandwidth issue first became apparent early in May. A week ago the further sustained drain of bandwidth caused the complete failure of the site. It is still inoperative over a week later.

WEBSITE SABOTAGE?

Our own IT expert suggested that it was possible that an unknown party was deliberately sabotaging the site. It was no more than a passing suggestion. However, on Tuesday, a support representative of the relevant hosting company, 123-Reg.co.uk, independently raised the same possibility without having any knowledge of the suggestion made internally.

There seems to be two possibilities. One is that the problem arises purely from a massive volume of visitors to the site downloading pages and documents. The other possibility is that an unknown party, perhaps having spotted the bandwidth “Achilles heel” earlier in May took steps to deliberately drain bandwidth.

Shell has a *track record of using underhand activity to sabotage the activities of its perceived enemies, so it would not be a first if they are responsible. At the moment this is merely a suspicion, not an allegation.

We know that Shell management is less than enthused about our websites as is evident from the litigation against Dr John Huong and the email threats I have received from Shell International Petroleum General Counsel, Richard Wiseman. Shell has been making threats against us for over a decade, so we are no longer impressed. As previously indicated, we relish the prospect of facing Shell senior management in the libel courts. We have countless boxes stuffed with evidence of management misdeeds.

Over the bank holiday weekend we set up a substitute blog type website and moved the content and domain names to the new site. It has a huge amount of bandwidth capacity. It is faster and has a number of novel features. You are reading this article on the new site. We may merge our websites so that a single search facility will cover the entire universe of web pages – almost 9,000.

In a related matter, Shell is unlikely to welcome the news over the Bank Holiday weekend of a U.S. Appeals Court in California setting precedence by deciding that online journalists, such as yours truly, have the same rights as traditional reporters. We will as always protect the identity of our confidential insider sources.

It looks like being an interesting battle.

*Titled Shell Transport directors were simultaneously also major shareholders and directors of a private spy firm which Shell admitted using for clandestine activities. The admission came after the activities of a Shell undercover agent were exposed by The Sunday Times. The relevant Shell directors were the ultimate spymasters of the organisation which was founded by former senior British Military Intelligence (MI6) officers with whom we have been in correspondence.

THE BrandRepubic article

Shell seeks agency for online makeover

By Larissa Bannister
Campaign
22 May 2006

Shell: seeking online agency

LONDON – Shell is searching for a digital agency to handle its online communications and to design its website.

The company is understood to be asking agencies to provide evidence of experience in turning around corporate reputations. This has long been an area of concern for the global energy giant.

The winning agency will also be briefed to help establish an identity for the new company, Royal Dutch Shell, which was formed in July 2005. This came after a merger between Royal Dutch and Shell Transport.

The brief, which was issued by Shell’s web communications division in The Hague, also involves development of content strategy and editorial for the website, as well as online branding.

Shell’s most recent UK corporate ad campaign ran in 2001. JWT created a series of TV ads that highlighted the way the company provides energy while remaining sensitive to cultural and environmental issues.

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