Nutella Nearly Blows Free PR with Legal Nonsense

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    If no harm is being done, why create PR risk through legal threats?

    Ferrero, the company that makes hazelnut-based sweet spread Nutella, nearly blew a free PR opportunity when its lawyers went after the six-year-old unofficial “World Nutella Day” celebration.

    The event’s founder, Sara Rosso, informed World Nutella Day’s 40,000+ Facebook fans that she had received a cease-and-desist letter. Sensing a social media mess in the making, major media outlets spread the news, which eventually made its way to Ferrero higher ups. Luckily, logic prevailed and the company jumped into crisis management mode, informing Rosso that they would have no issue with the celebration continuing, narrowly averting a fan backlash.

    In an interview with Ragan’s Matt Wilson, our own Jonathan Bernstein offered his takeaway from Ferrero’s narrow miss:

    The big lesson from all this, according to Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management, is that corporate attorneys just shouldn’t threaten private citizens without considering the PR outcomes.

    If your brand is being promoted in a positive way by an individual, why take action at all? Sure, if it was “World Nutella Sucks Day” then we could understand, but this event is, literally, nothing but free PR for the company’s flagship product. In fact, a smart organization would carry this attention over and give it all a monumentally positive spin by coming out to officially sponsor the celebration, cementing a positive reputation among thousands of potential brand advocates.

    Perhaps another lesson here is that automated or mindless brand protection online can easily lead to reputation crises. Sure, someone may be have your logo on their website, a clip from your TV show on YouTube, or any other number of “misuses,” but you really must consider whether it is doing more harm than good. If it’s not, then Crisis Management 101 would dictate that you let it be.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]