We’re so over Samatha Brick. Pretty schmitty, whatever. Besides we think there are other, far more interesting, PR stories to explore. Take the two big food brands that have been dominating the news over the last few weeks.
Pie in the face for Tories
Greggs and Pastygate, for example, not by any stretch the Government’s finest hour. Hello, should have seen it coming, would, I imagine be the response of most PR professionals to that howler.
In fact so obvious a trap did it seem to be for the ‘Government of Millionaires’, as it has been dubbed, that we wondered if they had deliberately manufactured such a blatant PR blunder to cover up some other piece of bad news. It seems not, however.
Greggs, meanwhile, have had a great couple of weeks PR wise and it has literally been the name on everyone’s lips – all bar the great and good of the Government who clearly abstain from pastry based substances or perhaps they don’t, they just don’t inhale…
Thinking the unthinkable…
Much more complicated is the current situation Wrigley’s Skittles brand is facing. We spend a lot of time putting in place crisis management strategies which try to prepare the client for any worst case scenario but this one is so outlandish and fraught with potential difficulties that it’s hard to imagine any crisis planning successfully predicting and planning for such a contingency.
The current major story coming out of the States is the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was carrying only Skittles and a drink when he was shot by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman. Martin, he claims, was ‘acting suspiciously’ as he returned to his father’s home in a private gated community. The fact that Zimmerman wasn’t charged under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law has led to furore in the States and the Skittles brand has become a symbolic badge for those who are protesting at the lack of an arrest.
Students are stocking up on Skittles and selling them to raise funds for Trayvon’s family and have been seen stuffed into pockets of protestors attending mass rallies and the sweets have even been used as temporary memorials
So sales are soaring for Skittles manufacturer Wrigley, which normally would be seen as a good thing. But what happens when a children’s snack, associated with innocent times, is seen to benefit financially from the death of a young man. It’s a situation that Wrigley has not been able to control, yet control it it must, because mishandling of this situation could backfire disastrously and hugely damage the brand.
Already on Twitter there has been some whispering that Wrigley is profiting from the tragedy and suggestions that it should donate money made since Trayvon’s death to the family or community causes. And there have been further reports that some sections of the African-American community are even asking people to stop buying Skittles until the company gets more involved in the case and donates money.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place…?
Sensitivity is key in Skittle’s PR approach to this escalating misappropriation of its brand and what it stands for. It needs to be genuine, humble, to be clear and appropriate in message and tone, and to ensure that the brand can never be accused of profiting from a young person’s death in such tragic circumstances.
Public Relations can often be seen as a fluffy marketing discipline but take a look at the fortunes of the Government whose ‘we’re all in it together’ message is now utterly defunct or the predicament Skittles face and the importance of good PR is clearly underlined. Get it right quickly or the impact on your brand, reputation or bottom line can be devastating.
What do you think the next move for Skittles should be? Keep quiet and try to fly under the radar or try to be a force for good and donate profits to relevant causes? Let us know your thoughts…