PR crises are unavoidable, especially in our digital age where everyone has access to everything. With the advent of the internet it has become increasingly difficult for PR teams to control a situation once it has reached the public. How do brands manage their image when facing negative public opinion? Starbucks has been one of the most recent brands recovering from negative publicity.
It has been a few weeks since controversy arose when two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks. Public outrage was immediate as the video went viral on social media. Since then Starbucks has announced that it will be closing 8,000 of its stores to undergo what they described as “racial-bias training,” but is this response enough to recover their favorable public image?
Two days following the incident and subsequent release of the men, Starbucks released a formal apology to the two men. Brands experience these moments of public backlash more frequently in our current political climate, but Starbucks handled the situation differently than many corporations have in the past.
Starbucks admitted that they made a mistake. Yes, sometimes it really is that easy. Sure, we won’t know how it will impact the company in the long run, but they’ve managed to acknowledge the mistake and apologize publicly. Not only did Starbucks admit complete fault, but by also announcing the closing of 8,000 stores they’ve shown determination to fix the problem. When managing a crisis it is important to know when to be proactive vs. reactive. Starbucks chose to be proactive which allows them to control the narrative.
While many people may see these actions as enough to forgive Starbucks, others have questioned whether simply closing for only one day would be enough time to offer comprehensive diversity training to employees. Members of the public have also voiced their concern regarding the sincerity of the apology. The apology also failed to mention race as an issue that should be addressed.
It’s not the first time that a corporation has fallen under public scrutiny for allegations of racial bias, but the frequency has risen and people want and expect to see change. Starbucks has managed the crisis well, but since they are such a large corporation they’ll need to continue rebuilding a favorable public image.
This blog post was written by Account Associate Thatcher Williams.