Politically incorrect pasta: Barilla CEO’s comments spark PR diaster

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Last week during an interview for an Italian radio station Barilla CEO Guido Barilla made anti-gay comments. His words have turned into what can only be called a PR disaster. ” ‘I would never make a spot with a homosexual family,” Guido Barilla said on the Italy radio programLa Zanzara (The Mosquito), according to Italian news agency ANSA. “Not out of a lack of respect but because I do not see it like they do. (My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role,’ ” (McCoy, USA Today). He was also quoted as saying that, “As a father of multiple children, I believe it’s very hard to raise kids in a same-sex couple,”(McCoy, USA Today) and, “…[anyone who disagrees could go] eat another brand of pasta,” (Zimmerman, boston.com) There have been outraged reactions around the world and many people are urging friends and family boycott Barilla products. On their Facebook page the following post was made:

“At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors – with love and respect – and to deliver the very best products possible. We take this responsibility seriously and consider it a core part of who we are as a family-owned company. While we can’t undo recent remarks, we can apologize. To all of our friends, family, employees, and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.”

On twitter, Barilla made the following tweet:

            “@BarillaUS: While we cannot undo words that have been said, we can apologize. To all of those that we have hurt or offended,                  we are deeply sorry.”
Other than those two posts and a video apology there hasn’t been any social media activity by Barilla as of September 26th. I find this odd. I would think that Barilla would be trying to reach out more and reform that sense of community after essentially alienating an entire portion of their consumers. As I said in my last post about social media etiquette, one of the most important rules when it comes to social media is to be transparent, helpful and useful online. There are so many responses coming in from consumers over this controversy. There is no way they could ever answer every one but perhaps if they responded to major groups like GLAAD via social media it would show a bit more interest, concern and sincerity about the issue. So far Barilla seems to be lacking any real plan to reconnect with lost consumers. As a PR professional do you think that social media could be utilized in a way to quell the problems the CEO’s statements caused? What would you do during this situation if you worked for Barilla?
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3 thoughts on “Politically incorrect pasta: Barilla CEO’s comments spark PR diaster

  1. I am absolutely shocked that a CEO of such a successful company actually spoke those words! I believe that by this happening, they lost tons of customers who they probably will never get back. The damage is done and all they can do is try their best to keep the customers they do have. I think they need to have a campaign that shows that they are a good company, I like your idea on targeting certain groups to show that they truly are sorry. I think the CEO needs to have a talk with the rest of the company on this whole incident, it is definitely going to affect their sales.

    • I think that it definitely could have been handled better. I found his apology seemed slightly insincere. Also, it didn’t help that he turned around and said that he was okay with gay marriage but he had a problem with gay couples adopting. It’s like he just keeps digging the hole deeper for himself and clearly doesn’t think before he speaks or consult anyone before he makes comments. His political and social views have no place when he is the CEO of a pasta company. It reminded me of the Chick-fil-a incident. CEOs of companies do not need to be sharing their political and social views when they are only going to hinder the well-being of the company.

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