#4 – Kellogg’s & Breitbart go to battle & our take on the Consumer Review Fairness Act

#4 – Kellogg’s & Breitbart go to battle & our take on the Consumer Review Fairness Act

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! We’re live with episode 4 of the Reputation Rainmakers podcast!

Each week, we’ll take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:

If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  We’re back with episode four of Reputation Rainmakers. Hope you’ve all had a great week. Erin joins me. Erin I hope you’ve had good week.

Erin Jones:                  It has been wonderful. How about you?

Andy Beal:                  Pretty good. Lot’s going on this week. Number of different stories we could have looked at but I decided to go with one that really appealed to me. Let me ask you a question. Are you a Kellogg’s or a General Mills breakfast person?

Erin Jones:                  I am more of a coffee kind of breakfast person.

Andy Beal:                  As long as it comes in a cup you’re fine.

Erin Jones:                  Pretty much. Heavily caffeinated, I’m a happy girl.

Andy Beal:                  All right, well apparently Kellogg’s has decided that there are certain people that they don’t necessarily want to target with their adds and have pulled all of their advertising from Breitbart dot com. Are you familiar with Breitbart.com?

Erin Jones:                  I am.

Andy Beal:                  For those that are listening, I’d imagine everybody’s familiar. They’ve really become more popular, seems to me during the election cycle. They’re definitely a conservative, we’ll just say biased news site and I think a lot of republicans and conservatives will go to them to get their news and Kellogg’s has decided that that’s not the audience for them. They have pulled all of their advertising from Breitbart dot com.

Erin Jones:                  Coincidentally, it seems like since they’ve pulled that advertising, Breitbart is showing the Kellogg’s name more than ever.

Andy Beal:                  Breitbart didn’t like it. They didn’t take too kindly to being called out and so Breitbart has just gone on a tear of digging up as much dirt as they possibly can. They’re writing stories about product recalls from five, six years ago and talking about their stock price. Really just taking offense and taking it personally.

Erin Jones:                  That and I logged in to Breitbart.com last night just to catch up and make sure I was up to date on the story for today’s talk and there’s a whole website overlay when you go to their website now with a #dumpKellogg’s hashtag with pictures of a lot of their popular brand logos. It says join the movement. They’ve definitely taken it personally.

Andy Beal:                  What I don’t get is why Kellogg’s didn’t just pull the advertising and not say anything? You know, companies make decisions all the time. If they’re looking at the ROI of an add they can say well you know what, our adds are not really converting well and we’re paying a lot for adds on Breitbart so we’re just going to put our money elsewhere. It seems that they’ve kind of jumped on the social signaling band wagon. Which if you’ve ever heard me talk, I talk a lot about just because you can say something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. A lot of individuals get into trouble because they start making political or social statements and then that gets them into trouble with their careers. I don’t understand why Kellogg’s didn’t just quietly pull it because I don’t really think of Kellogg’s as being a socially active brand. Do you?

Erin Jones:                  I definitely don’t. I don’t think that your political leanings should have anything to do with your choice in breakfast cereal.

Andy Beal:                  Right.

Erin Jones:                  It seems a little bit inflammatory on their end for sure.

Andy Beal:                  Right. I just want to have my eggos or my pop tarts and not have to worry about am I buying product from somebody that doesn’t like me or does like me. It really doesn’t bother me but bright bart thinks that it can stir up the passions of its 40 million plus readers. Like you said, the hashtag’s getting a little traction.

Erin Jones:                  It is and it’s one thing to have an issue with a news organization and not want your business affiliated with them, but now they’ve alienated their whole customer base.

Andy Beal:                  Right.

Erin Jones:                  Now all of Breitbart’s customers are hearing that Kellogg’s hates them and doesn’t want anything to do with them. Not only have they pulled advertising now, but they’re walking on thin ice with probably half of the people who have been buying their product.

Andy Beal:                  Brietbart is getting an opportunity to spin the narratives the way they want to and I don’t necessarily agree. In fact I don’t think it’s fair. If Breitbart wants to be considered as a legitimate news source, then getting their feelings hurt and then creating all of these articles to attack Kellogg’s, that, in my opinion, just looks kind of petty. They had the opportunity here to kind of take the higher ground and in part they did. They said well it’s not like we really rely on Kellogg’s money, but they should have just left it at that, maybe done a piece to let people make up their own minds and then moved on. They’ve kind of really taken it to heart and really gone after Kellogg’s. I don’t know if Kellogg’s expected that.

Erin Jones:                  I wouldn’t have. I don’t think many expect a large news source like this to get, “I’m going to grab my toys and stomp away,” over a decision like this. It may have been a better choice for them to offer a break on advertising prices for one of Kellogg’s competitors.

Andy Beal:                  That’s a good idea. It’s become a big distraction now for Kellogg’s. They’re in a fight that perhaps didn’t expect. They’re in a fight that is hurting them and what do they do now? They really have three options. One is they can completely backtrack, cave to the pressures from Breitbart, apologize to them and run their adds again. I don’t see that happening. The other one is they dig in and they double down on this and they take their lumps and they say “hey from now on, we are going to be a company that has a political bias in terms of the customers that we want, and we don’t want conservative customers.” I don’t see that happening either.

Erin Jones:                  No.

Andy Beal:                  I think maybe the third option that may actually happen, and the one that just kind of, without knowing all the inside details as to why Kellogg’s done this because if you actually look at what a financial analyst is saying, Kellogg’s is struggling with millennials. Millennials are not eating cereal for breakfast and so perhaps, maybe the underlying motive here was to make themselves appear hip and trendy and appeal to millennials. Who knows. Not knowing all of the details, it seems like maybe the compromise here is to apologize to their customers directly and say “hey look, we love all of our customers. We want everybody to enjoy our cereal whether you’re republican or democrat, we really don’t care.” And let that be the statement and kind of keep Breitbart out of this and not pander to them or apologize to them but apologize directly to their customers. What are your thoughts on that?

Erin Jones:                  I think that that is the most genuine, safest, I don’t want to say safest, as a customer I would probably be more receptive to them saying, “hey we’re sorry that you got dragged into this. This wasn’t about our customers. This was about us not wanting to run adds through this particular news source.” Maybe show them another conservative news source that they do run adds on.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, great idea.

Erin Jones:                  Let them know that this got blown way out of proportion and show that the news company is acting childish and spinning their leaning instead of having it back on Kellogg’s. I definitely don’t think getting into an all out hashtag war with these multi million, billion dollar companies is going to impress anyone on either end.

Andy Beal:                  No I agree. Maybe they just let to all blow over. If you think back a few years to the attacks on Chick Fil A, their views. Eventually, it blew over and the social media lynch mob finds another company of the day to attack. New petitions are started and people move on. So maybe just simply sitting back and … I think the key thing’s going to be maybe next quarter we’ll see how and if sales have been affected. Again, analysts are saying their sales are down because people aren’t eating cereal. It’s going to be really hard to attribute this particular even to any further drop in sales. Maybe that’s the way to do it, just sit back and wait and see and ride it out.

Erin Jones:                  Sure. I don’t know, I’d be curious to hear your opinion on this, but I feel like as a consumer, when I see the hashtag mob come out trying to attack someone, I am a lot more interested in reading about something like that when it’s coming from people than when it’s coming from a huge media conglomerate. How serious do you think people take this?

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, I don’t know. You’ve got the pictures of people pouring their Special K down the toilet, but you’re going to get that anyway and is that really reflective of the masses. I think a lot of people are just smart enough, even if the brand’s in the media or not, I think a lot of consumers are just smart enough to say “I just want to eat my pop tarts and not worry about the political stance of the company that’s making them. As long as the food is good I don’t care.” I think that’s where Kellogg’s should be focusing, is they should be focusing on making great food and just selling to whoever is interested in their cereal and their brand. I think most people are just kind of like “hey I’m not buying Kellogg’s because I align myself with your ideals, I’m buying Kellogg’s because I really like Frosted Flakes and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Erin Jones:                  Right and people who are passionate about their cereal probably are going to buy it regardless of the front man for the company is saying they support politically because I know some people that take their cereal very, very seriously.

Andy Beal:                  Oh you’re talking to one. A few years ago I tweeted out “Hi my name’s Andy Beal and I’m addicted to pop tarts,” and at the next conference I was handed a t-shirt with that exact quote printed on the front of it. I went through a ten step program and I’m not on to oatmeal so I’m done with pop tarts.

Erin Jones:                  Was that a ten step spousal program or was that self inflicted?

Andy Beal:                  I just realized I was eating far too many pop tarts and oatmeal is a lot healthier for me.

Erin Jones:                  Yes. I think that, I don’t know. We’ve been going through some of that at our house too and it makes me feel very decidedly middle aged.

Andy Beal:                  There you go. We’re maybe not the people that Kellogg’s are trying to reach out to anyway. All right, well let’s move on to our second story for today. The Consumer Review Fairness Act. Have you heard about this?

Erin Jones:                  I have and I like it.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. No I mean for those that are not familiar with it , it’s been in the news for the last few weeks, but it’s finally on it’s way to the president’s desk for signature. It basically prevents non disparagement clauses in long form contracts. So basically any kind of standard form contract where you’re told “hey if you want to do business with us you got to sign here, here, here, and here.” You can’t just add any kind of worded that says “hey if you post a negative review without our permission, we’re going to fine you 5 thousand dollars.” This has come about because companies have been doing just that.

Erin Jones:                  It drives me crazy. It’s funny too, I think a lot of negative press that companies get when they try to sue person for leaving a bad review, turn my head a lot more than that one negative review ever would.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah and there’s a term for that, it’s the Streisand effect. If you go to google and just search for Streisand effect, Barbara Streisand was not happy with a photographer that took photos of her home in Malibu I believe it was and so sued to have them taken down from the internet. Nobody was actually looking at the photos until she sued and now everybody was interested in what’s the big deal and what are the photos. Usually that’s the case as well when somebody sues for a negative review just because they don’t like it. It just puts a big spotlight on it.

Erin Jones:                  I think it puts a spotlight in the issue and it also makes the business look really petty.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah and then you have to ask yourself why are they leaving a negative review. Instead of fining them and trying to make money off the negative review, how bout looking at the feedback and saying, okay we continually get this negative review instead of hiring an attorney to insert language into our contracts to try and prevent it, let’s look at what the underlying cause is and try and just offer a better product or a better service.

Erin Jones:                  It’s a very novel concept.

Andy Beal:                  This doesn’t affect defamation so companies can still sue if somebody posts a review that is defamatory so it doesn’t take away that. It doesn’t apply to, from my understanding, it doesn’t apply to custom negotiated agreements. If you’re working with a company and it’s a very specific service that you’re getting from them where the agreement is customized and you have an opportunity to negotiate the terms of that agreement and they try to slip in a non disparage protection, it doesn’t apply to that. It really is the kind of the standardized forms that a lot of businesses have. Then likewise it doesn’t apply to employee contracts and it doesn’t apply to 1099 contractors. We’re making in roads but there’s still a lot of places where companies could, non-disclosures, non-disparage, non-compete. That kind of stuff is still in place.

Erin Jones:                  Sometimes I go back and forth with that. I think a lot of times disgruntled employees can take things too far so I can see how that can be really thin ice, but I think it’s a good start. I think people, should be able to honestly talk about an experience they’ve had with a brand, and the brand should, like you said take that as an opportunity to improve how they do business and make things right. Some of the brands that I’ve worked with, I have started out as horrible experiences and now I am completely loyal because of how hard they worked to make something better.

Andy Beal:                  Right. I think that leads to okay, so what can companies do. Well a lot of companies provide the service, take the check and then don’t even care about what’s going on. Check in with your customer throughout the transaction. If it’s installing a new patio in someone’s home, don’t wait until the very end to find out the customer’s not happy with brick that you used or you didn’t build it to the specifications. You’ve got to have things spelled out and scopes of work written down and agreed upon. Then, check in with the customer midway through on a number of occasions before it gets to the end and it’s too late.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely and something that I’ve heard you say many times, as a company, if you check in and you find out that the customer’s not happy, eat a little bit crow and fix it. Don’t argue, don’t fight, don’t try to shut them up or make them go away. Just be human for a minute and say “you know what you’re right, we can do this better,” and then do it better.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah build in to your pricing good will. Have a buffer where you’re not on such tight margins where if there’s something that you could do for the customer or you throw in something extra, don’t be on such tight margins that prevent you from doing that. Build in a little bit of a buffer so that if there’s something you can do that would really just knock the socks off of a customer and it’s unexpected, that’ll be great. That’s what generates the positive reviews. Say you’re going to build this patio, I don’t know why I’m thinking of patios but let’s roll with that. You actually build in a little space for a grill or you build in a water feature because you thought that the customer mentioned they really would love to have a little fountain but maybe that’ll be on stage two. You know that that’s within the budget, that’s the kind of thing that gets you the five star review is when you go out of your way to do something. Don’t have such tight margins, looking at you Best Buy, where you can’t do the right thing for your customer.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. Funny that you mentioned the patio. I had a friend who just redid their patio in their backyard and the railings just didn’t look good. So he called the foreman and said, “hey your guys did a great job on my patio but can you come and take a look at this because I just, I’m not impressed with my railings” and the guy came and and said “you know what I wouldn’t put this in at my house, you’re right.” Not only did he have his crew come back out an d fix the railing, but then he installed solar lights on the tops of the posts.

Andy Beal:                  Oh wow.

Erin Jones:                  It might have cost him 50 dollars, reinstalling the railing probably cost a little bit more than that, but the wow factor was off the charts.

Andy Beal:                  That’s how you get the positive reviews. Nobody’s going to leave a great review just because you did your job., but of you do something specific, especially if you fix something and go out of your way to make it even better than what they were expecting, that’s what gets somebody motivated to go and share the positive review. Certainly, you can ask them. I think that a lot of companies rely on the very end and I’m seeing an uptake in companies that send a form email asking for a review or asking how things went. Sometimes that’s the first time you learn that your customer’s not very happy at all and you’ve just asked them to leave a review on yelp or some other place. Really, you should have been checking in with them every step of the way to make sure that they were happy, so that A you have a chance to fix it and B you don’t have any big surprises at the end.

Erin Jones:                  That and they don’t have time to pick steam. If they’ve been mad for six weeks, and then you say “hey could you leave us a review?” They’re going to lose it.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, that’s true. Well the FTC is going to be empowered to enforce this law and enforce penalties. We’ll see how that works out. The FTC sometimes can be a little bit toothless. Just the fact that it’s out there, the fact that hopefully there will be a law that will protect consumers will be enough to at least stop companies putting these in contracts and make them unenforceable in court. I don’t know how the FTC is going to be a major role in that but we’ll see. Hopefully the president will sign this, this will go into law and it’ll be just another protection of free speech and be another reason for companies to do the right thing.

Erin Jones:                  I hope so. I think it’s a good start.

Andy Beal:                  All right, well that’s our show for this week. As always we’d love to have your questions, you can leave a comment in the post. You can head to facebook.com/Andy BealORM, and leave us a comment there. We thank you so much for listening. This is a exciting project for us. We’re enjoying putting this together each week. I know that when we go back in a few months and look at episode one we’ll all be shocked at how raw and terrible it was. We appreciate you guys being with us in the early stages. Thanks Erin for joining me this week.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you for having me.

Andy Beal:                  You’re welcome and it’s always a pleasure and thank you guys for listening. We’ll be back here next week and we’ll hope you join us. Thanks a lot. Bye bye.

Announcer:                  You’ve been listening to Reputation Rainmakers with Andy Beal, the original online reputation expert. For more reputation management advice or to hire Andy to speak at your next event, visit Andy Beal.com.

ByAndy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.