Bad News as a Catalyst for Change

Bad news is usually not good for business. The saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" may apply to entertainers and other personalities who benefit from keeping their names in front of the public... even if it is because of an arrest or embarrassing actions. But, most brands do not benefit from their names being associated with negative events or news.

A recent example of bad publicity that impacted an entire group of businesses was an ESPN "Outside the Lines" story about the food safety concerns at major league sports venues. The bottom line was that the vast majority of foodservice locations at sports venues have been cited for violations when inspected. After watching the story, one wonders if people singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" should omit any lines about buying peanuts, Cracker Jacks, or any other items from a stadium foodservice operator. When it comes to food, there is most certainly such a thing as bad publicity!

Is there marketing opportunity in bad news? Yes, and marketers must seize the chance to turn lemons into lemonade. The news does not have to be publicized as it was in the case of the sports foodservice industry to be actionable. Internal information that shows an increase in customer complaints, a rise in the number of lost customers, or lower profits are examples of events that could be a catalyst for change.

In the case of sports foodservice, the ESPN exposé should serve as a call for companies to review all aspects of their operations including hiring, training, food preparation processes, and the quality of products offered by their suppliers. Instead of a defensive, withdrawn response to questions about product safety like the responses given by foodservice companies Aramark and Centerplate in the "Outside the Lines" story, the more appropriate response is "what can we do to deliver a better experience to our customers?" Sports venues have expanded their foodservice options to more upscale (and higher profit margin) fare, but their efforts may be more fruitful with a focus on a quality, consistent, and healthy experience for their patrons.

When bad news visits, embrace it as an invitation for change. It will not leave until the conditions that brought into your life in the first place are addressed.

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