pasta company products When “Oops” Doesn’t Work

Pasta maker’s inept PR only makes it worse

Ronn Torossian for RonnTorossian.com on Oct 8th, 1:07pm

Recently a world-renowned pasta company – who shall remain nameless, just in case they eventually fix this – decided to draw a line in the sand. Check that, they picked up a handful of sand and threw it in the eyes of some of their customers.

Now, saying you support something that may not be popular is one thing. But saying an entire group of people should just “not buy your product cause you don’t need them” is a bad idea…even if you mean it.

From a public relations standpoint, there is simply no going back once that particular cat is out of the bag. Sure, if you want to say your company is “for” something, go right ahead. You might not make everyone happy, but at least you are not alienating huge numbers of potential customers worldwide.

Oh…and then trying to fix it by making it worse.

After the now notorious gaffe, the company’s CEO decided to make it all better by saying he didn’t oppose these people buying his products. He only opposed these people if they were a family. See, his company is a family company…so those sorts of families better not try to buy his pasta.

guido barilla 200x300 When “Oops” Doesn’t WorkYet again, oops.

See, when you tell someone they can be your customer as long as you approve of their spouse, that’s not an apology. Them’s fightin’ words. Apparently this CEO doesn’t quite get that.

For those who do and want to avoid this thermo-nuclear PR crisis, here are some tips you should follow:

#1 – Don’t get political if not necessary

The culture today is polarized. In public. Gone are the days when a CEO could comment among friends at a party and assume his personal opinions were safe from prying ears. Someone close has a cell phone and that stuff will be on the web before you get back home. The days of polite discourse seem gone too. No matter what you say, pundits will strip it of context and twist it for their own purposes. The lesson? You may hold strong social or political views, but don’t broadcast them. Your goal is to make money for your shareholders, not become the news.

#2 – Be as positive as possible

If you must stake a position, be as positive as possible. In this case the CEO wanted to make the point that his company supported traditional Italian families. He could have stopped there and people would have images of happy faces around a dinner table enjoying the pasta and family togetherness. Instead, he had to use this platform not to define, but to denounce. That might seem like a fine line, but it’s actually a huge gap in terms of public relations.

#3 – Focus on what’s best for your business

Bottom line, no matter what your personal beliefs, you have to do what’s best for your business. Public relations is about RELATING to the public, not dividing them and angering them. Unless that’s your business plan. If so, you know who you are.

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