Asleep at the Enchilada

December 18th, 2006

This past weekend, Taco Bell President Greg Creed popped up on my television numerous times in ads designed to reassure me (and you – and btw, congrats on being the Time person of the year; you’ve earned it) about Taco Bell’s commitment to safety and the end of the E. coli scare at its restaurants.

Taco Bell’s PR response to the E. coli outbreak at its stores is laughably late and sadly artificial. Where was Mr. Creed when the media first reported the outbreak? Was he wrangling with their lawyers on what he could and couldn’t say? Did he and his PR people think this would just blow over?

In crisis communications, everything boils down to one key question: “Do you care?” If you find yourself in a crisis situation, it may help to ask yourself the following questions:

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you are in luck. You may have the business and moral wherewithal to survive a crisis situation.

We always tell our clients facing a crisis situation: If you care, you move quickly. If you care, you over-communicate.

The public needs to be reassured again and again about your concern for their general well-being. Taco Bell didn’t deliver its message often or timely enough, and consequently others filled the void, mostly with fear.

Unfortunately, Taco Bell still has not shown that they care. Mr. Creed comes across as more concerned with Taco Bell’s business than its customers’ health. The company has spent significant resources on high-profile PR counsel, and this is the result? The advertising is late, the messaging is disingenuous and the delivery is stiff. Truly, a triple threat.

The ads also create a new question that most Americans are probably asking – why am I buying Mexican fast food from a man with an Australian accent?

Gordita – it’s Australian for uncontrollably ill.

Posted Under: Crisis Communications, Public Relations
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