How Exactly Is This a PR Crisis?

Okay, so the CEO of Whole Foods recently spoke his mind in the Wall Street Journal about the proposed healthcare reforms. Blah, blah, blah. And now customers are up in arms – protesting and picketing and boycotting and twittering and joining Facebook pages. Blah, blah, blah.

Apparently John Mackey had the audacity to remind Americans that healthcare is not a birthright. Agree or disagree, he still has the right to free speech. And so too do the customers and union members and anyone else who wants to pile on. Hey, this is still America, land of the free, home of the brave. Everyone has rights.

But how in the name of the Liberty Bell is this a “PR Crisis”?

According to BBC News:

Seemingly caught off-guard by the unfolding PR crisis, Whole Foods sought to distance itself from its chief executive’s comments.

“We’ve had a lot of emails and phone calls and people coming into our stores to talk about it,” said Libba Letton, spokeswoman for Whole Foods. “Our top priority is addressing their concerns.”

But public relations experts criticised the store for bungling its response.

“You have two choices: you either take a proactive approach and wade right in and sort it out or you sit back and wait,” said Erica Iacono, executive editor of industry magazine PR Week. “The company seems to be taking a wait and see approach and hoping it goes away. It’s a mistake.”

By the way, not to accuse the BBC of being sensational, but Erica Iacono is the only “PR expert” referenced in the story. And nothing personal, but how exactly is Erica Iacono an expert on this matter?

Regardless, none of that matters. In fact, none of any of this should matter.

Mackey spoke his mind and now the marketplace is speaking its mind and the chips will fall where they will. I mean really, what do the protestors and the twitterers expect? Do you want Mackey to recant? And if he does, will those words be “real” or calculated? And then you have to ask yourself what you really want: the truth or something else?

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.