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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Erisco Foods PR blunder: A lesson in the age of political risk

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By Abdulrauf Aliyu

In an era where social media has become a powerful tool for consumers to voice their opinions, share experiences, and shape public perception, companies must tread carefully in the digital realm. Unfortunately, Erisco Foods Limited recently learned this lesson the hard way when they made the ill-advised decision to have a dissatisfied customer, Chioma Egodi Jr., arrested for giving their tomato paste a negative review. This incident highlights not only the potential dangers of mishandling social media feedback but also the importance of effective public relations strategies in safeguarding a company’s reputation.

Chioma Egodi Jr.’s ordeal began when she took to social media to express her disappointment with Erisco’s tomato paste product. In her candid review, she stated that she had purchased the product out of necessity, as other brands were unavailable at the time. Her experience was less than satisfactory, and she felt compelled to share her honest assessment. What should have been a routine customer review quickly escalated into a public relations nightmare for Erisco Foods Limited.

Erisco’s response to Chioma’s negative review was nothing short of astonishing. Instead of engaging with her in a constructive manner or using her feedback as an opportunity for improvement, they decided to have her arrested by the police. This heavy-handed and misguided approach to handling criticism sent shockwaves through social media and beyond.

The fallout from this incident is a stark reminder of the consequences companies face in today’s hyper-connected world. As Condoleezza Rice and Amy Zegart aptly noted in their book on political risk, anyone armed with a cell phone or a social media account can create political risks that ripple through various levels of society. In Erisco’s case, Chioma Egodi Jr.’s single negative review sparked outrage among other consumers, organized groups, and even political officials.

Erisco Foods Limited’s blunder can be likened to previous corporate missteps that have had severe repercussions. The United Airlines fiasco, where a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight, the SeaWorld Entertainment scandal surrounding the treatment of orcas, and the Nike controversy involving child labor are all examples of companies that faced significant backlash due to their actions. In each case, the mishandling of public perception led to lasting damage to their brands and financial losses.

Erisco Foods Limited’s response to Chioma Egodi Jr.’s review not only reflects a lack of understanding of the power of social media but also raises questions about the company’s public relations team. It is imperative for companies in today’s digital age to have a skilled and savvy PR team that can navigate the complexities of online communication and reputation management. Erisco’s decision to escalate the situation rather than address the issue directly not only damaged their brand but also exposed them to legal and ethical scrutiny.

The consequences of this PR blunder for Erisco Foods Limited are far-reaching. First and foremost, they have alienated a customer who was willing to provide them with valuable feedback, missing an opportunity to improve their product. Additionally, their heavy-handed response has led to a widespread boycott campaign, with many consumers vowing never to purchase their products again. The damage to the company’s reputation may persist for a long time to come, and regaining trust will be a daunting task.

In an era where social media amplifies voices and shapes public perception, companies must embrace transparency, accountability, and effective communication. Erisco Foods Limited’s mishandling of Chioma Egodi Jr.’s negative review serves as a stark reminder that the consequences of mismanaging social media feedback can be severe and long-lasting. It is essential for companies to learn from their mistakes and prioritize customer feedback as a means of growth and improvement.

As we navigate the age of political risk, companies must adapt to the new reality where public opinion can have a profound impact on their success. Erisco Foods Limited’s blunder is a cautionary tale for businesses everywhere, emphasizing the importance of responsible and ethical engagement with customers and the broader online community. In this age of interconnectedness, safeguarding one’s reputation is not just a matter of good business; it’s a matter of survival.

Abdulrauf Aliyu
An economist and Policy Analyst writes from
45 Ashiru Road, U/Dosa New Extension
Kaduna

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