Starbucks Made the Right Moves to Defuse Crisis Yet More Work Remains, PR Pros Say

As we say in This Week in PR, you could look at the Starbucks situation in several ways: for a brand with such a progressive stance on diversity and inclusion, it didn’t deserve to get blasted the way it did, or when you’ve staked out such a high-profile position, you’ve set the bar high and any incident can result in a difficult situation.

For the most part Starbucks put its progressive platform in the background and eventually owned the situation, choosing to close its stores May 29 for antibias training for 175,000 employees. Did it make the right choice? We asked several PR pros and academic for their thoughts.

Gene Grabowski, Partner, KglobalGene Grabowski, partner, Kglobal, says, “It’s important for individuals and institutions in crisis to make a sacrifice that publicly demonstrates a commitment to change behaviors.” The May 29 closure does that, he says. Starbucks is “sending a strong message to workers and customers that it is doing more than merely apologizing and making promises.” Grabowski also gives CEO Kevin Johnson credit for creating a training program with the help of “prominent people,” such as former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Sandra Taylor, a member of APCO Worldwide’s international advisory council and a former Starbucks SVP, says the move to close stores for diversity training differentiates the brand from other quick-serve restaurants. “I don’t know another such company that goes beyond antibias in hiring, promotions etc and embraces antibias training in customer relations.


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