Companies spend years building a brand and establishing their reputation. In the blink of an eye a crisis may occur that changes the way in which consumers view that company, or brand. This negatively effects the success of that company considering the little amount of time at which a crisis is spread throughout the news and throughout social media. When a crisis in a business, or company occurs every second counts on deciding which steps they will take to reduce, or fix the crisis. Public relations professionals play an important role in crisis management. Public relations professionals must be on top of crisis management by playing a role in crisis prevention, preparation, and planning. A recent crisis that occurred, with the very well known fast food franchise Taco Bell, nearly destroyed their brand without the help of the public relations professionals that worked for the company.
In 2011 a California woman accused Taco Bell of deceptive marketing claims, saying that their tacos have far less beef than advertised (Dorothy Crenshaw, 2012). The accusation turned in a class-action lawsuit that alleged false advertising against the franchise claiming that Taco Bells “seasoned ground beef” was not all real beef. The suit claimed that the Tacos from Taco Bell were only 36 percent beef which, if true, meant that the quality of the beef would be under USDA regulations (Dorothy Crenshaw, 2011). Social media turned into a frenzy with multiple consumers of Taco Bell communicating negatively of the brand. During this period, a photo with a grossly looking material was shared across the internet. The unappetizing photo was called, “taco meat filling” (Dorothy Crenshaw, 2011).
After the lawsuit was filed, Taco Bell launched its “Thank You for Suing Us” campaign that left many people scratching their heads (Beck, K. 2011). The campaign ended up working in Taco Bells favor. Along with print advertisements, aggressive online campaigns via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube identified the company’s seasoned beef as 88% USDA inspected beef and 12%, “secret recipe” (Beck, K. 2011) Along with creating the campaign, Taco Bell created specific pages on their web site labeled, “The Truth About Our Seasoned Beef” and “Taco Bell Ingredients” (Beck, K. 2011). Taco Bell opted to take a direct approach in countering the lawsuit because the company claimed that their “number one priority is to inform and reassure our customers and employees…” (Beck, K. 2011). The company chose to defend their brand the same way in which you would defend your reputation.
The campaign worked out beautifully for the Taco Bell franchise considering they relied on traditional media to control the outbreak of the crisis. If the crisis had occurred ten years earlier Taco Bell would have had more difficulty reaching the public and getting the word out on the actual truth behind the beef they sell in their products. The only problem with the campaign Taco Bell decided to use was the fact that they somewhat put down their products negatively. This in turn didn’t negatively effect the business of the company, but it was noticed by many. In the end Taco Bell successfully fixed the crisis early on by joining the conversation of the public through social media.
Beck, K. (2011). Taco bell’s meaty marketing campaign. Medford: Information Today, Inc.
Dorothy Crenshaw. (2012, February 15). Disaster Averted: Six Examples of Top PR Crisis Management. Retrieved from Marketing Executives Networking Group: http://mengonline.com/blog/2012/02/15/disaster-averted-six-examples-of-top-pr-crisis-management-by-dorothy-crenshaw-2/
Dorothy Crenshaw. (2011, January 30). “Thanks for suing us!” Taco Bell takes on “Beef-Gate” . Retrieved from Crenshaw Communications: http://crenshawcomm.com/thanks-for-suing-us-taco-bell-takes-on-beef-gate/