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A dead frog found in a Diet Pepsi can in Florida has quickly become an international topic of discussion. But Pepsi has not yet leapt to stifle the scandal’s digital sprawl.
PepsiCo still had not issued a public response to the incident on the company Web site as of Friday, though Pepsi spokesman Jeff Dahncke reportedly said yesterday that the Orlando bottling facility that produced the can had been subsequently inspected by the FDA. According to Sebastian Cianci, FDA spokesperson, the Agency’s final report stated that they “found no adverse conditions or association to the contamination. The Agency has not determined when or how the contamination occurred.”
The troubles started when Fred Denegri had taken a sip on July 23 from his Diet Pepsi he had purchased in a multi-pack at a local Sam’s Club. Having noticed a peculiar taste, he and his wife Amy poured out the can to find an unidentifiable carcass and subsequently sent the sample to the FDA for testing.
“It will now be up to Pepsi to decide whether the story is significantly damaging for them to officially respond,” said Sarah Smith Robbins, director of emerging technologies for Kelley Executive Partners, at Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. “Pepsi must also choose which media channels--social networks, YouTube videos, their own Twitter stream--are most appropriate to reach out to the members of the public who are aware of the story and already reacting with their own conversations, spreading of the story, and ultimately with their purchasing decisions.”
What might once have been only a local blip on Pepsi’s overall publicity radar is rapidly becoming an international topic of discussion. Thanks to the popularity of sharing via digital mediums—such as social networking sites, YouTube, and blogs—news of damaging topics can explode to international proportions well before the company can issue any damage control, according Robbins.
Pepsi is not alone in taking a public relations hit thanks to the rapid spread of information on digital media. Domino’s was thrust into less-than-pleasant limelight in May when two of its employees posted a film on YouTube showing themselves doing “unhygienic” acts to the food.
Although Domino’s president did well to respond to customers with his own YouTube video apology for the employees’ actions over a week later, Robbins said the lapse resulted in the apology getting less traction than the original.
“It’s imperative in today’s market that the corporate response be as rapid as the spread of the story or the opportunity to repair the damage will be missed,” said Robbins. I would suggest that Pepsi use Twitter to respond as well as countering the story with an equally compelling, yet positive story, that will gain the attention of the larger media outlets and blogs.”