Taco No-No: Taco Bell’s Crash & Burn Litigation PR Strategy

January 25th, 2011

Many of us continue to crack jokes about mystery meat from childhood memories.  Others keep the dream alive as adults, and sue alleged offenders – to them goes the glory!

If you haven’t heard yet, Taco Bell Corp. has been sued for false advertising, with claims that its products are not “seasoned beef” as advertised.  The point of contention is that Taco Bell uses “meat filling” to flesh out its tasty delights, which does not consist of approved USDA standards for food labeling.

Litigation PR counsels that a business have a holding statement in place should lawsuits arise in likely scenarios.  We can’t really say whether Taco Bell saw this one coming though, as they issued quite an angry statement in response to the lawsuit.  Here are some quick reasons why Taco Bell needs better litigation public relations counsel:

Man, that statement is evasive! Taco Bell’s rant essentially states that it does serve 100% USDA beef.  That’s fine and all, except that the statement does nothing to address the core of the complaint.  Take a look at the filings, which argue that Taco Bell products contain additional filler ingredients besides beef.

Never let them see you sweat.  A holding statement is not the time or place to attack opposing counsel.  Stick to the issue at hand, and use the statement to buy time for your PR pushback.

Speak, and speak consistently.  If your company issues a holding statement, get it across all your platforms at the same time.  Taco Bell’s Facebook and Twitter pages ignore the situation completely, leaving a big gap in communications.

Given these mistakes, Taco Bell needs to revise its crisis management and litigation PR strategy quickly, if it plans to avoid a big corporate black-eye as lawsuit discovery charts its inevitable course.

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