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Crisis Communication for Taco Bell

By Suzanne Spurgeon  January 29, 2011

Taco Bell is no shrinking violet.  It was faced with a communication crisis this week amid allegations that its beef tacos are not that beefy.  Instead of panicking, they strategized and took their message directly to news and taco consumers.

In a brilliant move, they disclosed their secret recipe on the Taco Bell web site.  They did not apologize for mixing spices, fillers and water with 88% beef.  The president conveyed the company message in a YouTube video.  

Traditional media was used as well.  Network television interviews were done and full page ads were placed in newspapers. The lawsuit hasn't gone away, but from a PR standpoint, the company has leveled the playing field.  

Every corporate communication crisis is unique. But, industries would do well to take a look at Taco Bell's approach.  While it is too early to tell if sales will fall; I predict this will fade quickly.  It definitely is not as creepy as Wendy's predicament when a woman made false allegations of finding a finger in her chili. It takes time to erase that image from one's mind.
The Taco Bell team used a smart analogy in its messaging; the way Taco Bell prepares its beef is no different than what most of us do at home when we make chili.  That is a simple message consumers should relate to.

Protecting your brand is vital no matter how large or small you company is.  If the first time you think about Crisis Communication is when you are facing a real crisis, you are in trouble.  

Need a crisis communication plan, on-site drill, or executive training?



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