Starbucks recently began and ended a marketing campaign called ‘Race Together’ that was intended to open discussion between baristas and customers about race in our current society.
Chances are you’ve had an immediate reaction to this initiative. Customers (and most likely part-time baristas) are wondering: why? After talking about the campaign details with peers, it seemed like the majority were only interested in being handed a grande Pike Place first thing in the morning.
Starbucks’ latest campaign stirred up a lot of conversation, nonetheless; just not the type of conversation the company had expected. The public took to social media and blogs to express their distaste for the forced ‘Race Together’ discussions. Only a week after the campaign’s birth did Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, formally announced the end of ‘Race Together’:
“While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise.”
Schultz insists that the initiative was scheduled to end on March 23, 2015 to begin with, and that the criticism received has nothing to do with its removal. Schultz also mentions that this is not the end of the long-term discussion Starbucks’ is looking to start with its customers – more campaigns are to be anticipated and more goals have been added to the company’s to-do list.
What would you do as one of the PR professional for Starbucks? Take Starbucks Senior VP of Global Communications Corey duBrowa as an example of what NOT to do. After receiving negative feedback on social media about the campaign’s obvious flaws, duBrowa decided to delete his Twitter account.
“I was personally attacked through my Twitter account around midnight last night and the tweets represented a distraction from the respectful conversation we are trying to start around Race Together. I’ll be back on Twitter soon,” duBrowa told Business Insider.
The PR issue is that the SVP of Global Communications should not delete a personal form of communication during a communications dilemma. If the campaign is focused on starting conversation on race relations, then the communications team should be prepared to share, too.