Sharp Contrasts in Response to Crises

Katie Paine
Katie Paine

There’s a British proverb that says, “Youth looks forward but age looks back.” That pretty much sums up the way Blue Bell Ice Cream and Twitter handled their respective crises last month. Blue Bell is a private, family-owned Texas ice cream maker—dating back to 1907—that has an army of devotees. CEO Paul Cruze is the grandson of the company’s founder, while its ads stress its long history. So it’s not surprising that when a crisis hit, the company emphasized its roots. Twitter, on the other hand, seemed to ignore its past and tried to get the media to focus on the future.


Last March Listeria turned up in Blue Bell’s ice cream. At first, the company only pulled products that were made in the facility in which tainted products had been produced. After further investigation and testing by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Listeria turned up again. On April 30 the company pulled all products off the shelves and shut down all production plants until the source of the contamination could be identified. While some faulted Blue Bell for dragging its feet, the company’s CEO remained front and center in the recovery effort. He said that he considered the entire episode an opportunity for a “fresh start,” involving 750 employees and supervisors in a new training program and implementing an intensive cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance regime.


When Twitter went public in late 2013, its share price jumped from $26 to $45. Since then, growth in monthly active users has stalled at around 300 million and investors have questioned its ability to generate sufficient ad revenue.

Last month, hours before Twitter’s Q1 earnings release, data mining company Selerity managed to find the announcement and tweeted it to the world. All of which would have been enough of a crisis, but the fact that the news was bad—earnings and ad revenue were significantly lower than expected and 2015 projections were revised downward—made matters worse. The news sent Twitter’s stock into a nosedive, losing 25 percent of its market cap in the first day.

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CONTACT: Katie Paine is CEO of Paine Publishing. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.