Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Holy Cow! Are You Going to Eat That? -or- Beefing Up Your Crisis Management

     Where to begin? By now, you've heard about Taco Bell's "Battle of the Beef".  The fast food chain is the target of a class action lawsuit.  The suit claims Taco Bell's seasoned beef doesn't include very much actual meat.  Specifically, the suit alleges that Taco Bell's taco filling contains just 35% ground beef- the rest is fillers, extenders, spices, etc. I walked by my local Taco Bell today and they have a big sign up promoting their new "Beefy" product.  I imagine most people think something "Beefy" probably contains a large amount of beef- so this lawsuit is not great timing for the folks at TB.

     Poor nutritional value in fast food?  Who knew?  So, the fact that you're not getting a fantastically healthy meal at Taco Bell is not exactly a news flash.  What is news is Taco Bell's response to this potentially-damaging story.  CNN, Yahoo, NBC, Associated Press, LA Times and the State College, PA Grocery Flash are all providing coverage.  This has all the ingredients for a stomach-churning culinary calamity.

     The company's President and Chief Concept Officer, Greg Creed, posted a statement on the Taco Bell web site.  You can see it here: Taco Bell Statement It says in part, "At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket... We are proud of the quality of our beef... Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later - and got their "facts" absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food."

    Most importantly, we have to ask, exactly what is a Chief Concept Officer?  Just kidding.  But does this person have any concept of what is at "steak"?  I think it's safe to say that Taco Bell is being portrayed in a very negative light.  It doesn't matter whether the allegations are true, misleading or outright lies.  In a case like this Taco Bell needs to do more than issue a statement on its web site, threaten legal action, and hunker down to see if it will all blow over.  If the facts in the lawsuit are "absolutely wrong" Taco Bell needs to produce some proof- and it needs to get the word out.  If the allegations are true, Taco Bell needs to take action- perhaps it could improve its product and save its brand.  Whatever it does, Taco Bell needs to get cooking- right now.

     On the other hand, I saw some TV interviews where Taco Bell customers essentially said- "I know it's not very healthy but I like it."  Maybe that's the ad campaign Taco Bell should be running.  
 "We're not health food- but hey, you like us!"  If they need a spokesperson Taco Bell could bring in a real meat expert like Lady Gaga.  Or they could bring back that Chihuahua- people love talking dogs.  Bon appetit. 

Check out my LinkedIn profile:

Copyright 2011
all rights reserved by the author

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In Your Face (Book)

    What's going on over at Facebook?  The social media giant is caught up in another very public dispute over privacy.  Last week, the Facebook gang announced a new "tweak" giving app developers access to users' home addresses and phone numbers.  Not surprisingly, a lot of people didn't like that.  And it isn't the first time Facebook fans have gone bonkers about changes to security settings.

      Just days after announcing the new policy, Facebook says it received some "useful" feedback.  As a result, the company has disabled this new feature.  And the company is promising to make changes so users will clearly understand when they're being asked to share phone numbers and addresses- and can opt out.

     From a PR standpoint it seems Facebook is somewhat tone deaf when it comes to the debate over individual privacy.  The company has been blasted repeatedly.  Critics claim Facebook has had confusing settings- that make it hard for users to protect personal data.  And there have also been repeated policy changes concerning how Facebook handles with our info.

     Obviously, Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to social media.  So it's in a position to make its own rules.  To the casual observer it might appear the company is determined to leverage information about its users to somehow make a profit.  Why else would Facebook keep fiddling with these privacy settings- risking repeated public relations blow-ups?

     But wait a minute here.  Maybe there really are very good reasons for changes to those security settings.  But if that's the case, why does Facebook keep making changes without making it easy for users to understand what's happening?  I think Facebook needs to be more sensitive to security concerns- especially when you think about how we're all worried our personal information might disappear into the gaping maw of the internet beast.

     It wasn't that long ago that MySpace was a major presence in the social networking landscape. If Facebook continues to irritate its customers- those users might decide to "unlike" and unlink from Facebook.  What do you think?  Why is Facebook having so many PR flare-ups about this issue?  One thing is for sure- with the internet things sure change quickly.  And before long- the worldwide obsession with Facebook could change too.

Check out my LinkedIn profile:

Copyright 2011
all rights reserved by the author

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Snow, It's A Slippery Slope...


     Happy New Year everyone.  I missed the mother-of-all snow storms during the holidays.  But the PR fallout is still falling!  The airlines took another hit by not reacting quickly enough- and by not doing enough to help stranded travelers.  Night after night we saw TV news reports showing people sleeping on the floors at crowded terminals.  I think the airlines have downsized to the point where good PR is considered a pretty low priority.  Not surprisingly, I see that AAA predicted 92 million people would be traveling over the holidays- 93% of them by car.


    But the airlines have nothing on New York City.  Riders were trapped on stalled trains.  Cars, buses and snowplows were stuck on city streets.  At the height of the storm, hundreds of 911 calls were backlogged.  Heart attack victims reportedly waiting hours to get help.  At least one newborn died- ambulance crews couldn't get there in time.   And days after the massive snowfall- many streets were still unplowed.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initial response: “The world has not come to an end. On balance, I think you’ll find we kept the city safe and we’re cleaning it up.”  He also suggested that residents go shopping or take in a Broadway show. The Mayor told reporters, "There’s no reason... to panic.”  That was news to many residents.  Streets in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island were buried under an avalanche of snow.  Critics started calling it the 'Bloomberg Blizzard'.  One city councilman tweeted, "The mayor has to stop acting like 'Baghdad Bob' saying the streets are fine. No they aren't. Where the hell are the plows?"  Suddenly, Bloomberg was fighting to save his reputation. 


   The late Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, famously said, "all politics is local".  That simply means you have to take care of your constituents.  The people who depend on you expect you to look after them- whether you're the mayor, a car maker, a doctor, lawyer, whatever.  When you appear disconnected from reality this snow snafu is the sort of stuff that happens.  After Katrina, President G.W. Bush sent help- Navy ships from Norfolk that were scheduled to arrive 6 days after the hurricane hit.  The President obviously hadn't seen the TV video- showing desperate people with no food and water.  Mayor Bloomberg apparently didn't notice that city streets were not getting cleared.


    Mayor Bloomberg mushed his way over to Brooklyn and listened to the anger of residents whose streets hadn't been plowed. He told everyone, "I'm angry, too."  And he promised to have every street plowed by Thursday- five days after the storm first hit.  Is it enough?  Hard to say... To be fair, the storm was much worse than was predicted.  In fact, it was a terrible blizzard.  The Mayor couldn't control that.  But he can control what happens afterwards.


     Pay attention.  Be proactive.   Be sympathetic.  Get the job done.  As I've said many times, often, the best crisis management doesn't come from a slick ad campaign.  It comes from:
1) A willingness to admit you were wrong.
2) Your promise to make things right.
As it stands right now, it's looking like a long winter in New York.  It'll be interesting to see if the mayor can thaw out his reputation.  What about your clients?  What will you do when the snow hits the fan?

Check out my LinkedIn profile:

Copyright 2011
all rights reserved by the author