Archives for June 2013

In the Soup

paulaCrime never pays. Neither does bad behavior. And media coverage, without media coaching, proved it this week to Southern Cooking celebrity, Paula Deen. The Kitchen Queen has dished her last on the Food Network, her showcase for the last decade with such popular shows as “Paula’s Home Cooking” and her most recent, “Paula’s Best Dishes.”

Ms. Deen has lost not only her network but millions of dollars in brand sponsorship from such major sponsors as Walmart, the biggest store in America and her restaurants in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Sponsors QVC, Target and Sears may soon follow suit. This financial fall-out began with a former employee’s accusations of  her “acts of violence, discrimination, and alleged sexual and racial harassment.”

In response to the lawsuit, Ms. Deen admitted having “used the ‘N-word’ long ago.” In addition, Ms. Deen has apologized through online video, asking for forgiveness “to those that I have hurt.”

But to many, Ms. Deen took her foot out of her mouth only to change feet. Her apology was not apologetic but deflective. “Let those who have never said something they regret, cast the first stone.” Being a no-show on the TODAY Show to explain didn’t help either. Al Roker, calling Deen a friend of the show, said he hoped she would reconsider because “she really needs to address this.”

In the 90’s, sports commentator Fuzzy Zoeller made a similar racist food faux pas and cost himself a half-a-million dollar corporate contract when he said of Tiger Woods who had just won his first Masters: “That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. So … pat him on the back. Say, ‘congratulations and enjoy it.’ And tell him not to suggest serving fried chicken next year, or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”


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McDonald’s CEO, Don Thompson, recently received a question from a 9-year-old girl, Hannah, asking why they sell food that isn’t good for children, followed by “don’t you want kids to be healthy so we can live happy lives?”  It was a tough question, but Mr. Thompson knows how to establish the positive image of his brand.  In response, he thanked the 9-year-old for her question.

Hannah’s concerned parent personalized her argument toward Mr. Thompson stating that as a corporation, you “might not have to think about the effects of your marketing…but as parents and grandparents, there must be a part of you that knows, it’s just not right.”

Mr. Thompson presented himself as a responsible parent whose children also eat at McDonalds.  He stated that he loves to cook, and cooks with his children at home, “we cook a lot of fruits and veggies.”  He noted that they have the option to eat healthy foods at McDonalds too. “McDonald’s sells fruits (apple slices in kids meals) and veggies (including side salads on the Dollar Menu.)  In addition, McDonald’s recently began to sell fat-free chocolate milk.”

Following the principles of media coaching, Mr. Thompson stated the positive, instead of denying the negative. Rather than disclaim selling burgers, or dwelling on the accusations of obesity and diabetes caused by fast food, Mr. Thompson emphasized that McDonald’s offers healthy options and quality food for a low price.

“It’s real beef, it’s real chicken, it’s real tomatoes, real lettuce, real fruit, real smoothies, real dairy, real eggs, and we do it in a way that is also affordable.”

“Biting the Hand that Feeds You”

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Every employee is an ambassador of the brand s/he works for … good, bad or ugly.

A recently-fired employee of Taco Bell, perhaps believing that one photo on his mobile phone of his licking a stack of empty taco shells wasn’t attention-getting enough, decided to post the picture on his Facebook page and Reddit, leading to a viral headache for his former fast food employer.

However, Taco Bell isn’t the only franchise that has had to deal with employees who express their lack of respect for the brand and the customers they serve.   Burger King and Domino’s Pizza both have had similar PR disasters in the recent past.  Burger King had employees post a picture of just their shoes standing on top of two open containers of lettuce, while two Domino’s employees posted a video to showcase their high velocity sneezes adding extra spice to the calzones.

The fast food industry and their franchisees need to establish the importance of brand image and new media manners during orientation.  Presentation coaching is a valuable investment for companies that consistently hire new and often young people who don’t know how to publicly present themselves.  Companies need to educate employees that they are the brand!

When employees get READY FOR MEDIA, they also learn that they should listen to radio station, WII-FM:What’s In It For Me!  How you have represented this brand will make all the difference in getting your next job, promotion or raise. And the next and the next!