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Bad vibes

Bad vibes

Why do consumers seemingly love to loathe some brands? And what can businesses do to turn around an evil image? Rania Habib of Communicate magazine tries to find out.

December 1, 2010 4:48 by

SILENCE IS DEADLY. McNabb says while social media may be a recent tool, it is no different from its predecessors.

“The fundamentals remain the same: Communicate as much as you can,” he says. “If you’re silent, the community will inform itself. The great danger from social media is the same danger newspapers and television used to pose: It will fill communities with speculation.”

In a bid to repair its reputation, Hans van Bochove, director of communications and CSR for Starbucks in the EMEA region, says the coffee giant started addressing issues internally.

“You need to talk to your own people first, as they are your best brand ambassadors,” says van Bochove. “We started providing brochures in stores for people to read about what kind of company we are. We felt it was a very respectful way of starting to address rumors, rather than come out with big, bold ads. Instead of adopting a reactive way of communicating, we are looking for a dialogue.”

Van Bochove says Starbucks, from a communications perspective, is a front-runner on the online activity scene, but it lags in its communication with the Arab world.

“We have millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and so what the company is doing on a global level in the English language, we’re hoping to do the same in Arabic,” he says.

“The rumors are very persistent online, and in order to address them, we need to be a part of the conversation and to start engaging, not just with our partners [the term Starbucks uses for the brand’s employees], but with our critics. We need to invite them, which is something that takes longer than just providing opinions, and have interviews, press releases, and websites in Arabic, and have people who are capable of having conversations online with them in Arabic.”

In what is regarded as the biggest sign of the coffee house reaching out to address rumors, Starbucks CEO Schultz gave Dubai-based news channel Al Arabiya an interview during which he addressed some of the issues the company faced in the Middle East.

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