If you joined the rest of the world in cringing at the Domino’s Pizza social media PR disaster a couple of years back – Taco Bell seems to be pointing the way for large corporations in dealing with negative online buzz.
The company has come under fire for selling beef that’s only 88% beef. Now personally, I never imagine anything we eat in fast food chains is real food, but maybe I’m a cynic. In any event the company has come out fighting with a YouTube video from it’s President, plus positive posts on it’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Mashable reports that this has had negligible effects on the bad press they’re getting – but then, Mashable mentions Taco Bell’s 45k Twitter followers, and this morning they’ve got 51k – so they look to have signed up an extra 6,000 Twitter followers in the past 24 hours. Clearly, someone’s supporting them.
The key thing is – they’re making their case heard. The very fact that Mashable has publicised about their CEO’s explanation means that half the blogosphere now knows there’s two sides to this story. I suspect we’ll see a mellowing of criticism as the story evens up and people realise (if they didn’t already know) that meat isn’t always 100% meat. And guess what? A few million more people will know about Taco Bell in a business in which familiarity with the brand is half the battle.
Looking back to the Toyota recall disaster in 2009/10, which many people thought could be the end for the Japanese car giant, some reports showed that their active response to the problem via social media actually led to a bounce in interest from buyers. Simply by engaging – albeit against a tide of negative sentiment – they raised the profile of their vehicles and reminded buyers of their, usually, very high standards.
P.T Barnum once provided a great insight about all publicity being good publicity – and I guess there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be just as true for social media. Let’s watch this one and see.
NB – Join me at Social PR (London) on 28th Feb, where we’ll be discussing case studies like these and other real-time communications issues. The conference will be live streamed online.