Let’s get controversial. You’ve probably heard the saying, “no news is good news.” You’ve probably also heard the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” But when your company is the target of bad press – such as fast-food behemoth Chipotle’s recent scandal, thanks to the “Chubby Chipotle” smear campaign running in the New York Post – which maxim do you stand by?
The reality is, there’s some truth to both statements. If you suddenly find your brand at the center of unwanted attention, take a step back and remember that your response can radically influence how the public weathers the news. If we were in Chipotle’s shoes – this is what we’d do.
1. ENJOY THE CLICKBAIT:
First and foremost, publicity equals free advertising. We hate to be reductive, but in terms of raw numbers, an article in the New York Post is the public relations equivalent of a $300,000 ad campaign. Even though the article questions Chipotle’s ethics, a feature in the Post means more people will be surfing to the Chipotle site and thinking about their products. And when your burrito brand is at the top of mind, it’s also more likely to be the go-to dinner spot after a late workout at the gym. Clickbait – those scandalous headlines that blur the line between journalism and gossip while begging to be clicked – may not always yield the best online traffic, but they do increase visitors, have the possibility to go viral, and keep people talking about your brand.
2. DON’T FORGET TO ASSESS THE DAMAGE:
That said, we aren’t suggesting that you ignore the gravity of the situation. Take a step back from the immediate impact of the article and ask yourself if the situation is really going to turn customers away. If you’re a loyal Chipotle customer and you see the Chubby Chipotle ads, you may be tempted to surf onto the Chipotle website and join the conversation. If you’re anti-Chipotle, you might want to do the exact same thing. The article doesn’t reveal anything most Chipotle fans or fast-food followers don’t already know, so it may be safe to assume that this story will line tomorrow’s waste bins and little or no response is needed. If you were in Chick-Fil-A’s shoes back in 2012 when they were brought to task over their religious intolerance toward same-sex marriage, this may be a different story. Only your target audience, the severity of the article or accusations, and how brand loyal your followers are can answer that question.
3. DECIDE IF YOU NEED TO RESPOND … AND HOW:
If a response is needed, recognize the power an influx of online traffic and social media attention has on this situation and your brand. You’ve just increased your reach and given yourself an organic platform to handle the situation with grace, uniqueness, and class. A well-timed article, blog post, or Facebook campaign could turn a scandal into a sensation and validate the values your brand stands for. No one likes to be criticized, but a memorable response can make or break the public’s reaction to even the worst faux pas. For example, on August 6, Vanity Fair ran an article chastising Tinder for supporting an unhealthy “hook-up culture.” Thirty-one rapid-fire Tweets later from one of Tinder’s employees, and the abashed dating site went from zero to hero. The company never admitted whether the response was planned or not, but the results prove our point entirely.
We feel for you, Chipotle. But when life gives you lemons … we recommend that you make a big ol’ burrito with all the fixin’s.
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