I’m sure most of you remember the story of the Subway spokesperson, Jared Fogle. He got his stardom after eating a diet of turkey and veggie Subway sandwiches and loosing close to 245 pounds (Jennings, 2015). However, that partnership was terminated in July of 2015 after Fogle was investigated by federal officials. The raid of Mr. Fogle’s home by FBI agents follows child pornography charges filed in May against a man associated with Mr. Fogle’s charity foundation (Dipietro, 2015).
The Public Relations crisis management model highlights four stages that must be taken in order to effectively deal with a crisis, like the one Subway was going through. The first stage is the proactive phase. This phase is all about preventing a conflict from growing and getting too out of hand for the company to handle. In order for Subway to fulfill this first step in managing their crisis they would have to devise a crisis plan that will be beneficial to their company and it’s image. In my opinion this plan should be made before a crisis occurs as a form of safety net. A company should not wait until they are in trouble to think of a plan of action for a solution; they should have an idea in their back pocket ready to use in case something bad does happen. With a crisis like this one, catching it early is going to be the best way to control the amount of speed it picks up. For Subway I would have suggested that they be tracking blogs and daily newspaper printings so if anything was published about Jared’s investigation they could catch it and handle it.
The second stage of managing a crisis is the strategic phase. This part of this process entails identifying the emerging conflict and the possible dangers that could come with it. This would be done inside of Subway as their public relations team decides on the best plan of action for dealing with their crisis. When Subway made the decision to terminate their partnership with Fogle they were implementing this phase of managing their crisis. If I was in their shoes I would have done the same thing. I would not want my company associated with an icon that could damage the credibility of the company in any way.
The third stage for managing a crisis is the reactive phase. This phase involves public relations professionals reacting to the events as they unfold in the external communication environment. As far as the Subway crisis they completed this stage successfully when they took to Twitter after the investigation went public. They posted two tweets in an attempt to tell their fan base that they have terminated their partnership with Jared and in no way do his actions represent their values (Angulo, 2015). In my opinion, posting to social media was very smart on Subway’s part. Using the popularity of Twitter, they can reach their followers quickly and notify them that they acknowledge what is going on and they are not going to ignore the situation. A big part of this phase is the amount of time it takes company to voice their opinion on the crisis. As I said earlier, timing is everything in this field.
The fourth and final stage of this process is the recovery phase. This stage involves doing research to see how much the crisis effected the company and figuring out a way to repair the image. Although Fogle was a main part of Subway’s brand they have still been able to draw in customers. Although Subway has been able to keep their doors open during this crisis, it is highly recommended that a company not rely completely on a celebrity spokesperson for their advertising because situations like this one have a chance of showing up (Jennings, 2015). If I was in Subway’s shoes I would be putting all of my effort into adjusting our image and ensuring that we remain the face of healthy eating. I would want to make sure our customers continue to focus on the quality of our food and not the crisis that is surrounding us and Jared Fogle.
Being able to control the attention a crisis receives can make or break a company when they face their first major publicity problem. Companies need to have a plan ready at their fingertips so that they can address the situation in a timely manner. If they have time on their side there is a chance they can come out still on top and adjust their image to remain a favorite in the eyes of their customers.
Angulo, N. (2015, August 20). Subway faces an uphill battle in post-Jared era. Marketing Dive. Retrieved from http://www.marketingdive.com/news/subway-faces-an-uphill-battle-in-post-jared-era/404269/
Dipietro, B. (2015, July 13). Crisis of the week: subway served with a pitchman problem. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2015/07/13/crisis-of-the-week-subway-served-with-a-pitchman-problem/
Jennings, L. (2015, July 8). Experts: subway incident highlights need for crisis management plan. Nation’s Restaurant News. Retrieved from http://nrn.com/subway/experts-subway-incident-highlights-need-crisis-management-plan