That’s The Way The Taco Shell Crumbles: Taco Bell’s PR Nightmare

Taco Bell Shell Lick

Over the past few days I keep seeing the same story: The Taco Bell PR nightmare.

The whole situation started when an unidentified Taco Bell employee posted a photo of himself licking a stack of taco shells on his Facebook page. What started out as little more than a prank has exploded into a PR mess for Taco Bell.

Taco Bell reps have been very vague when commenting on the situation as a whole. Instead of formulating individual responses, Taco Bell representatives simply respond with the following text whenever people post the photo to the company’s Facebook page:

“We have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. We believe this is a prank and the food was not served to customers. We are conducting an investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”

In recent developments, Taco Bell released an official statement informing the public about the termination of the employee in the photo. The notorious photo has been plastered all over Taco Bell’s Facebook page, with a new one being posted every few minutes.

The problem for Taco Bell is more about brand practices, than the actual brand. In a recent USA Today article, Erika Napoletano, a brand strategy consultant, said, “It’s not a brand problem — it’s a brand practices problem.”

If the company wants to prevent situations like this from popping up again in the future, it needs to rethink its practices and hire people who have the same amount of respect for the brand as executives do. Without some sort of change, problems like this will become even more prevalent.

All people involved in a business, from low-end workers to CEOs, become attached to a brand whether they like it or not. Social media sites have provided a viral highway for incidents like this to blow up like never before. Employees need to know that when they join a company, they become a representative of the brand. The consequences for their actions on social media sites are much more dramatic than in past years simply because their accounts are more accessible.

The Taco Bell incident is very similar to one from mid 2012, wherein Ohio Burger King employee posted an incriminating photo on the image-based bulletin board, 4chan. He was standing on two tubs of lettuce with the simple phrase, “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.” Users at 4chan managed to track down the poster through GPS data and get the employee fired. However, Burger King took swift action and the incident was forgotten.

Taco Bell Anon

Problems like these will not go away any time soon. Social media sites will be right there to remind people. Perhaps its time these companies changed their hiring procedures. The sheer viral power behind social media and its ability to bring shame to a brand should make companies think twice about the people they hire. Whatever happens, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we see another situation similar to this all over the Internet once again.

One from Mid 2012: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/07/4chan-users-work-to-expose-ohio-burger-king-lettuce-incident/

USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/06/03/taco-bell–gross-employee-action-public-relations-nightmare/2385919/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/tacobell?fref=ts&filter=2

Official Statement: www.tacobell.com/OfficialStatement

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