By Erin Hartwig
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

Like most millennials, it’s hard for me to remember a time B.C. (before Chipotle). Dubbed as the “healthy” alternative to most existing fast food options, Chipotle is the place where you really can have it your way and build your own burrito, bowl or taco using fresh ingredients and responsibly raised protein options.

While we may find it impossible to choose between steak, chicken and carnitas, it goes without saying that E.coli is one item we’d all prefer left off the menu. But sometimes, like bad customer service, you get it anyway.

Unfortunately this was the predicament Chipotle found itself in, leaving 37 customers in the states of Washington and Oregon afflicted with the less than glamorous symptoms of E.coli. Chipotle’s PR team was quick to jump into action, issuing a press release outlining seven specific, actionable measures Chipotle was taking to address the issue:

(Click image to enlarge)

*Note the release date of November 3, 2015

So why was this a good PR move?

Chipotle has consistently proven that it is willing to sacrifice profit in order to stay true to its mission of healthy, sustainable food. This held true when they took carnitas off the menu because they couldn’t find the right suppliers that fit their specific criteria — a people-before-profits mentality.

In this instance, Chipotle immediately closed all 43 restaurants in the Washington/Oregon region even though it turns out only 10 restaurants were affected.

But did it miss the mark?

What I find concerning is not the messaging, but the method of delivery. Chipotle is a public company, so of course they need to issue a press release to inform investors and company stakeholders.

But who is Chipotle’s target audience? One guess would say millennials. And where do we find most of our news? Social media.

I consider myself an adequate representation of Chipotle’s target customer base (in my humble opinion). BUT I also work in PR. Therefore I knew where to seek the answers to most of my Chipotle questions: through some sort of press release or official statement, easily found on Chipotle’s website. My millennial counterparts on the other hand, might resort to Twitter.

Which is where they were able to find a link to the news — nearly a week after the release was initially issued. All in all, an immediate response via social media could have proven just as effective and even complementary to the timely press release.

This just in, the E.coli breakout has spread to California and New York. Stay tuned on how the PR team continues to handle the situation.

(Source of Feature Image: Huffington Post)

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