Sometimes people get it right, either because they have good instincts or because they receive wise counsel.
Whole Foods did it right (ultimately).
“Straight up, we made mistakes. We want to own that,” co-CEOs Walter Robb and John Mackey said in a YouTube video this week.
That’s about as stark as an apology can get, and it became the headline quote that the media used. So far so good. The company was seeking to recapture the storyline and the public’s perception.
But take a step back. Truth is, Whole Foods had no wiggle room. New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs had them dead to rights for overcharging customers by mis-weighing prepackaged fruits, vegetables and deli meats. The investigation had been ongoing for a year, the agency repeatedly reported the issue to Whole Foods and gave them opportunities to fix it, but problems persisted.
Only a week earlier, Whole Foods was still publicly lambasting the agency for “overreaching” and pledging that “we are vigorously defending ourselves.”
Why the pivot? What happened in between?
Clearly, someone realized that the old strategy of denial wasn’t working with the agency and was harming the market’s reputation with the public. Time to try something new. So they did.
This is what Crisis & Reputation Management is about. Determine what the client’s ultimate goal really is — which may be very different than the client himself realizes. Then define the strategy that will get you there.
Any company that depends on consumer perception and loyalty for its livelihood is in the same boat. They may instinctively want to fight and defend their honor. But at what cost?
Ultimately, your goal is to retain and expand your customer base. You achieve that by making customers believe that they are important and that your first mission is to ensure they get a great product at a fair price.
Everything else is garnish.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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