Crisis media management: How not to respond when you have just ‘ruined Christmas’

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How not to respond when you have just ‘ruined Christmas’

When a brand has been accused of ‘ruining’ Christmas you might expect an apology to be forthcoming.

But Tesco appeared to find ‘sorry’ a particularly hard word to say when customers complained about it selling ‘rancid’ and ‘rotten’ turkey over the festive period.

The supermarket giant was hit with a series of complaints about the condition of its meat which cost up to £59.



But when journalists picked up on these online complaints it issued a statement to the media which at best seemed tone-deaf and at worse sounded arrogant.

It said: “We’ve sold hundreds of thousands of great quality British turkeys this Christmas.

“We have exceptionally high standards so we will look to address the small number of complaints in recent days.

“We will get in touch with each customer so we can investigate how these instances may have happened.”

When you have been forced to put your Christmas dinner straight into the bin, or, as some people have reported, been violently ill as a result of eating it, you really don’t care how many ‘great quality’ turkeys the supermarket giant has sold.

Nor are you likely to be particularly interested in the ‘exceptionally high standards’.

I understand that Tesco was keen to put the incident into perspective, but it would have been better served by starting with an apology and showing what action it was taking to ensure something similar doesn’t happen in the future.

It should have said something along the lines of: “We are really sorry to hear about this and have launched an investigation to determine what has happened.

“We will be in touch with those customers who have experienced issues in recent days.

“The number of people who have complained is relatively small, but one complaint is too many, and it appears that our usually high standards were not met in this instance.”

While Tesco was keen to stress the number of complaints had been ‘small’, perhaps unsurprisingly at a time when journalists are often struggling for stories, they generated plenty of damaging media stories.

Here are a few of the headlines:


Tesco customers forced to order emergency takeaways after finding their turkey ‘rotten and rancid’ The Telegraph

Tesco ‘ruins Christmas’ as dozens complain of ‘rancid’ turkey Metro

‘Christmas ruined’ Fury as Tesco customers complain turkey was ‘rotten’ Daily Express


Tesco’s response was better on social media where customers did at least receive an apology, with many sounding personal and human, and were offered a refund.

And that did, to some extent, cover for the lack of apology in its media statement, as journalists were able to report that the company had said sorry to customers.



But here it also appeared to neglect one crucial part of the crisis media management response - checking, and deleting where appropriate, the scheduled tweets.

The Tesco Twitter account published a tweet on Boxing Day packed with advice on what to do with turkey leftovers – a pretty unappetising proposition when that particular social media channel had been filled with pictures of gruesome looking Christmas dinners under the hashtag #Tescoturkey.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the circumstances it was a tweet which was met with an easily avoidable fresh wave of responses from angry customers. 



Apologising at the start of statements and checking scheduled tweet are basics when handling a crisis media management incident, but it seems apparent that not everyone is following this advice.

Hopefully this blog will act as a timely reminder. Every little helps, as Tesco might say.


*Download our FREE eBook to find out more about planning for a crisis. It includes a checklist to helping you identify the right spokesperson, messaging templates and a risk register to help you identify your organisation’s vulnerabilities.


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