#WhyIStayed Twitter Campaign Backfires on DiGiorno’s Pizza

The Ray Rice story has dominated the news cycle for the last few days. That’s what makes DiGiorno’s Pizza latest Twitter campaign such a head-scratcher.

Some brands have been piggybacking on unrelated but red-hot hashtags to promote themselves via social media. DiGiorno’s used #WhyIStayed to get the word out about its pizza products. Unfortunately, that hashtag is dedicated to domestic abuse victims sharing their stories.

The PR fail comes two days after TMZ.com released a video of NFL star Ray Rice punching his wife in the face in an elevator. This was in addition to a separate video showing Rice dragging his wife out of an elevator. Rice since been dropped from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL.

DiGiornos’ PR debacle is made worse in that it rolled out the Twitter campaign less than three weeks before the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The outrage on Twitter arrived fast and curious. The company immediately took down the tweet and apologized for the mistake:

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For PR pros, the lesson should be fairly clear. If you want to use a trending topic on Twitter to get a message out, take the time to determine precisely what’s behind that hashtag and what it means exactly.

Even if you’re metaphysically certain of the hashtag’s meaning, take some extra time to discuss whether the hashtag might mean different things to different people.

Before you transmit, you need to get under the hood of the hashtag and verify that it’s perfectly appropriate for your message.

Otherwise, you risk incurring the blowback that DiGiornos has had to deal with.

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1