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Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

“Pink Slime” Gets PR Assist

with 2 comments

An effective crisis communication response plan has always been part of successful public relations. It seems obvious to state this, but for many years, good crisis communications was like a well-kept secret, slowly trickling out to the wider industry over time and, seemingly, only in response to historic PR disasters like Exxon’s response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the decision to launch the Challenger space shuttle, as well as in recognition of crisis communication success stories like the Tylenol cyanide poisoning response.

So it’s tough to watch the Beef Products Inc., a Texas-based company, in the PR fight of its life in the wake of the recent “pink slime” controversy. This PR Daily story by Gil Rudawsky summarizes how social media powered the efforts of parents to get the beef products banned from schools and removed from grocery store meat departments.

The company, which uses industrial processes to retrieve tiny scraps of trimmed beef that otherwise would be discarded, launched the beefisbeef.com website to explain why the meat is perfectly safe and nutritious, and to argue why the term “pink slime” is wrong, misleading, and libelous.

Get The Facts infographicThey even include an effective infographic that explains why the use of ammonia in the process, one of the problems cited in the “pink slime” protests, is actually common throughout the food processing industry.

I use the word “tough” to describe this campaign because, on a technical level, while the company seems to be doing everything about as well as it can be done to address the critics and try to set the record straight, I suspect that the power of the phrase “pink slime” may be too much for them to succeed in the long run.

The Center for Media and Democracy’s famous PR industry expose, “Toxic Sludge is Good For You,” ascribed wondrous powers of persuasion to the practice of public relations. But nothing, not even PR, is totally invincible. In the end, the public does get to decide what they like and what they don’t like. And, if they don’t like “lean beef trimmings” or “pink slime,” they will vote with their dollars and reject the product.

— Update: April 2, 2012: The Consumerist reports that AFA Foods, another manufacturer of “lean beef trimmings,” has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, blaming the uproar over the “pink slime” news coverage.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

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Written by Charles Primm

April 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Good post! That’s one PR gig I wouldn’t want. I wouldn’t say they’re fighting a losing battle but…they are.

    Lola Alapo

    April 2, 2012 at 9:12 am

  2. I think they have a fighting chance. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Slime is prime! I can definitely see something like that going viral complete with its low impact to the environment…or something like that. But all in all, its scary!

    SocialMediumSphere

    April 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm


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