Agencies give Starbucks top marks

Starbucks looks to social media and its own channel to respond to CCTV’s criticism on its “hefty product prices” in China that has sparked widespread discussions across the internet.

Starbucks had responded on Sina Weibo and also placed an official statement on its Chinese site the day after the media outcry, stating that the company “attaches great importance to the issue and would like to communicate directly to the public”.

Marketing talked to a number of agencies to get their response to Starbuck's PR response and opinions were generally positive.

David Liu, chairman of Weber Shandwick China thinks the statement is a “proper response” as corporations should not confront media criticism directly but rather educate the public.

“Starbucks made a good response as the main messages in the statement were the brand’s philosophy and values," Liu said.

I don’t suggest any corporation confront any media directly in public as it may stir more attacks on media and also distracts public perception from the brand.

He added that social media plays an important role to have dialogues more directly with the public.

“Social media has become more important as a top information source for both public and corporations that carries real-time responses. In this case, Starbucks not only responded on social media but also on its own channel, the messages has been delivered in a more holistic way,” he said.

Jenny Liu, executive director of Strategic Public Relations Group China agreed: “Starbucks’s reaction on social media was so far appropriate. It avoided direct response to the criticism while leveraging third-party, meaning the stakeholders/customers/netizens, to lead the voice,” she said.

She suggested that three factors that a company should consider when facing a PR crisis, namely, speed, attitude and propriety.

“The weight of each factor depends on the actual situation. Social media is getting crucial in corporate communications due to its speed and wide influence, it is always the first priority to ‘observe and understand the situation and public opinion’ than (to give) a quick reaction.

Richard Tsang, Chairman of Strategic Public Relations Group Hong Kong also emphasises the importance of social media for companies to respond accordingly.

“It is crucial to reach stakeholders effectively, no matter whether its during times of proactive positive promotions or reacting to criticism," he said, adding the medium to be used should be dictated by which one stakeholders use most frequently.

“I believe many Starbucks’ stakeholders are social media users, thus responding on social media platforms seems appropriate. A good brand is not only about its products, it is more about the acceptance and appreciation of its values, image, lifestyle and many other aspects, which make users/consumers happily pay a premium,” he said.