Could Starbucks Have Done A Better Job Responding To The Philly Viral Video?

Issue #167

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Each time the narrative starts again that social media may be on the wane, a single person with a smartphone takes a video that blows that storyline away.

This week, Starbucks is on the receiving end of the power of a single individual with a phone.

(If you haven’t been on social media in the past few days here is what you missed >  See the “Video of the Week” link below.)

If you have been on social media you know that a single Starbucks in Philadelphia, PA is at the epicenter of an economic/political storm that touches on many of the most divisive discussions Americans have been having for years about race, white privilege and the police.

This incident is particularly shocking for a brand known for their liberal or progressive attitude. In fact, Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz, has used the Starbucks platform to discuss race in the past (hint, it didn’t go over particularly well).

I don’t know if the CEO’s apology (below) will be enough, particularly for residents of Philadelphia, but I do think that Starbucks HQ’s reaction to the incident does show they are adept at crisis communications and social media.   There are a few things that I would recommend they change in the future.

Here is what they have done so far:

1)  Respond quickly using the social media platform of choice for journalists, Twitter.   Starbucks responded quickly via Twitter, the same platform where the initial viral video was posted by Melissa DePino @missydepino. 

What Starbucks could have done better:  The customer viral video was released 4/12 at 5 PM ET. Starbucks waited until 1 PM 4/14.   We live in a 24/7 news cycle where immediate responses are expected by the public.    Starbucks waited almost 48 hours to respond.   48 hours is an eternity in today’s media environment.   48 hours allows the narrative to be shaped by others.

2)  Respond with specific actions from the CEO directly.   The Starbucks CEO used both Twitter and the Starbucks blog to respond with three specific actions that he will be taking regarding this incident (see below for the link).

What Starbucks could have done better:  They should have responded using a video of the CEO on twitter and then follow that up with posting on the blog and other social platforms that Starbucks uses.   A video would have made the company more human and personal than a formal PR type statement on their twitter feed and blog (bonus:  use facebook live).

Also, be time-bound and specific on when you will be doing the three things you say you will be doing.  The CEO’s response is precise, without really saying when anything will happen, allowing many people roll their eyes as they don’t believe Starbucks will follow through on these actions.


What other ideas do you have?


Shaun Dakin – Dakin Associates

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