Mmm Pumkin Spice Latte season has arrived, unless you carry a gun. I’m not here to write another “Thank you, Starbucks” or “I hate you now, Starbucks” story, but rather looking at the PR implications of the company’s statement and reaction. (Quick catch up if you missed it, here is the letter from Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, asking customers not to bring their guns into Starbucks.)
One of the first rules in a PR crisis is to respond rather than ignoring the situation. How did Starbucks measure up with their recent gun request? I think they did everything with a careful strategy, despite the fact that it looks like they were ignoring customers.
The letter was posted on their blog at about the same time it was shared on Facebook and Twitter. Instantly, the public insisted on sharing their opinions with the company. What I find interesting, is the fact that it looks like the company shared the statement then just let it ride out, only responding to a select few of their customers’ critiques.
They didn’t even post any new corporate messages for 48 hours on both Twitter and Facebook.
Every bit of Starbucks’ strategy was intentional and planned out. Aside from correcting a few misunderstandings about the request, there was no need to defend themselves against haters; therefore, no response was necessary.
Had they responded in a defensive way, they’d have just created more controversy. Instead, they allowed everyone to share their opinion and two days later, came back with a photo of a warm cup of coffee as though nothing happened.
The general rules for a PR crisis may, in fact be to respond, but there are rules to that rule. The important takeaway for marketers to learn from Starbucks are to
- Have a plan.
- Decide what is right for your company as a response. Every situation is different.
- Be united as a team and convey the same message across all media outlets.
- Never lose control of the situation.
- Respond, but not too much and not too loud.
- Never ever, ever do what Amy’s Baking Company did in response to a crisis. (I can’t get enough of this story. It’s a train wreck.)
What do you think of how Starbucks handled the backlash from their announcement?