Business publication Business Insider, today published its list of the 10 "Biggest PR Disasters" from 2012.
Unsurprisingly, Penn State University's cover up of the Jerry Sandusky scandal was the biggest disaster on the list. What followed, however, should be a crystal clear wake-up call for the restaurant industry.
At No. 2 was McDonald's #McDStories Twitter campaign. The promotion was launched in the beginning of the year, and asked fans to tweet their "special stories" about the chain. However, numerous tweets popped up about negative experiences, such as food poisoning and fingernails found in Big Macs, and McDonald's had no way to rein in the comments. It was the perfect example of the unpredictability of social media.
Coming in at No. 3 was the "pink slime" controversy that arose after an ABC News report uncovered the beef filler ingredient, and linked it to some restaurant chains. The news went viral and caused some major chains to drop the accused supplier. The story became such a consumer concern that Wendy's even took out ads in most major publications throughout the country "reassuring" its customers that "it has never used the filler and never will."
Chick-fil-A's anti-gay marriage stance during the summer earned that chain a No. 4 spot on the list. When president/COO Dan Cathy came out against gay marriage, and then later reiterated his position, a sharp division erupted over the chain's social media channels, with the opposition promising a boycott and supporters attending an Appreciation Day. University student bodies vetoed Chick-fil-A's attempts to open on their campuses, and Jim Henson toys were pulled from a kids' meal promo.
To earn the No. 5 and No. 6 spots, two quick-service restaurants were forced to react quickly to social media-happy, rogue employees. A Taco Bell (No. 5) employee tweeted a photo of himself urinating on nachos; while a Burger King employee posted a photo of himself standing in two tubs of lettuce. Both employees were fired from their respective restaurants.
These (five-out-of-10!!) restaurant incidents appeared alongside KitchenAid's tweet about President Obama's dead grandmother, American Apparel's exploiation of Hurricane Sandy, the National Rifle Association's ill-timed tweet following the Aurora, Colo., shooting, and the error riddled Apple Maps launch.
And Jerry Sandusky.
Here's hoping for a much, much better 2013.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.