PR Crisis of the Week: Forbes, Ritz, Goldfish and ZBurger

PR Crisis of the Week July 27, 2018

Last week, I kicked off a new column highlighting the PR crisis of the week, spurred by the seemingly unending opportunities for material.

While there were several major contenders for the title last week – Papa John’s, MGM Resorts and Burberry – this week, we have more brands making news for their missteps. 

Forbes

Forbes, a publication not known for its strong editorial oversight (articles riddled with typos often appear), found itself in a quandary this week when one of its op-ed pieces struck a nerve with…well, with pretty much everyone.

From Gizmodo: “…a jaw-droppingly bad op-ed (appeared) in Forbes explaining that the age of the crusty old library is dead, and instead of them, we should all get Amazon. Not some kind of Amazon-like digital public library, or even Amazon Prime itself, mind you, but physical Amazon Books retail locations.

Titled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money,” it is written by Long Island University Post economics professor and seemingly prolific Forbes contributor section writer Panos Mourdoukoutas.”

The piece was later taken down, but no explanation was given. Per Mashable, “As of Monday afternoon, it appears as if the story has been pulled from Forbes without a note or any other reason.”

People are still talking about this one, although Forbes didn’t issue an apology and seems to be done addressing the issue.

Ritz and Goldfish Crackers

Snack lovers everywhere cried foul when two cracker makers issued recalls this week.

According to a Time article, ‘No Snack Is Safe.’ People Are Losing Their Crackers About the Ritz and Goldfish Recalls, both types of crackers were recalled due to potential contamination of the whey powder used in the products which can cause salmonella.

Both Mondelez, who makes Ritz, and Pepperidge Farm, maker of Goldfish, were proactive in getting the word out about the voluntary recalls. No illnesses have yet been reported, according to the Time article published July 24.

ZBurger

Our final contender this week may have committed the most egregious misstep.

Per The Washington Post, “The Z-Burger hamburger chain is facing criticism after it says a social media contractor posted an ad on Twitter depicting an American freelance journalist who was executed in the Middle East.”

What? Wow. PR and social media pros everywhere were scratching their heads, asking, “How could this happen?”

The question that ran through my mind was, “Does ZBurger vet its contractors?”

Apparently, yes, although maybe not thoroughly enough. Owner Peter Tabibian says he checked contractor Valor Media’s references before hiring them three months ago.

Tabibian apologized, saying, “I’m really sorry about what happened. I take full responsibility for what happened. It is my company.”

He continued, “I trusted someone to do stuff on behalf of us,” he said. “I made a big mistake doing that. I’m very sorry to the Foley family and his friends and anybody who knows him.”

Tabibian said the company was ending its relationship with them “immediately” after the incident took place.

Valor also apologized, but the damage had been done. Agency owner Michael Valor said the incident was “an act of ignorance, not an act of maliciousness.”

“Z-Burger had nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing to do with this at all,” Valor explained. “I want to apologize for putting Z-Burger’s reputation on the line.”

This should serve as a cautionary tale for any business owner hiring an outside vendor to handle social media. Know who you’re working with. And closely monitor what they’re posting on your behalf.

Which PR Crisis Stood Out?

Which crisis stood out for you this week, PR pros? Which brand is doing the best job of handling its PR crisis? We’ll be watching to see how things pan out in the days ahead.

Which brand will be next to join the list?

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2 responses to “PR Crisis of the Week: Forbes, Ritz, Goldfish and ZBurger”

  1. Robert Bulnes says:

    ZBurger

    The absolute tone-deafness of both is incredible, coupled with the fact that Burger did not vet Michael Valor at all. How do you hire someone whose corporate twitter feed is full of mysoginist, homophobic rants? To make matters worse, Z-Burgers apology, copied and pasted from the Notes app on a iPhone coupled with Valors 3 part video opus to himself made both (though rightly so, in Valor’s case particularly), unending targets. It’s a text book lesson in how to do everything wrong.

  2. michellemessengergarrett says:

    Yes, Robert, this one took the prize in my book. Vetting your contractors is of the utmost importance. ZBurger’s owner said he checked Valor’s references – but you’re absolutely correct that a simple review of its social media posts would’ve said volumes about the company.

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