Want to Generate Bad PR and Social ‘Dislikes?’ Here’s General Mills’ Strategy


General-Mills-Headquarters-300x226Food giant General Mills issued an update to its privacy policy this week stating that customers who engage with the brand in basically any way forfeit their right to sue the company, as reported by The New York Times. This includes downloading coupons, linking to or "liking" any of General Mills’ products—such as Cheerios—on social media or entering company-sponsored contests.

The company’s legal terms “require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.” The legal team at General Mills may believe it is doing the right thing by shielding the company from frivolous lawsuits. From a customer relations perspective, however, this move could be categorized as peevish and insensitive. The potential for alienating customers is already evident on social media.

It is hard to know if the courts will recognize any company’s claim to be lawsuit-proof just because its own legal policy says so. The General Mills action has legal scholars pondering the validity of its actions. But the company is leaving the impression that it is picking a fight with consumers where none previously existed. And there is no court in the land that can protect a brand against bad PR.

The best way for General Mills, or any company large or small, to avoid lawsuits is by producing safe products and being transparent and honest in its dealings with the public. It’s not foolproof, but it’s better than trying to dictate to your customers their own legal rights.

UDPATE: General Mills responded to the New York Times story late Thursday in hopes of clarifying their policy. Spokesman Mike Siemienas stated in an email: "No one is precluded from suing us merely by purchasing our products at the store or liking one of our brand Facebook pages." The policy would apply to people subscribing to a publication or downloading coupons. However, if a consumer "likes" a General Mills product Facebook page in exchange for a product coupon, then the policy would apply.

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell




Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

avatar

About Richard Brownell

Richard Brownell is Group Content Manager at PR News. He has several years' experience in developing and producing online events. Richard is a published author with several titles for young audiences to his credit. He has also written political commentary for several popular websites and his stage plays have been produced in New York and other major cities.



Deals of the Week

Get $200 Off PR News' Digital PR Conference

 digitalpr2015-180x150_updated
Join us June 1-3 where you'll hear from top brands such as Walmart, Miami Heat, Verizon and Ritz-Carlton on PR and communication best practices for the next wave of digital trends.

Use code “200off” at checkout to save $200 on the regular rate.

Get $50 off PR News' Book of Employee Communications

employeecommunications-180x150

In this 5th volume of PR News’ Book of Employee Communications, our authors cover more than 45 articles on crisis communications, social media policies, human resources collaboration, brand evangelism and more.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription

 

Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

Comments are closed.