In the past couple weeks, the once-popular pizza chain, Papa John’s, has been under some serious scrutiny. In July, the founder John Schnatter was forced to resign as chairman after his use of a racist slur. Since then, the company has seen a drastic decline in sales and has removed Schnatter’s image, which once graced the covers of all pizza boxes, from all marketing materials.
Now, customers are angry with Papa John’s because of its attempt at apologizing to the public on social media. Recently, a 65-second ad was posted to the Papa John’s Facebook page showing a series of angry tweets from customers followed by the words, “You expected better from Papa John’s. So did we,” are displayed. That is followed by more angry tweets, then the words “Thank you for your anger.” That last word is subsequently replaced with “criticism” and “honesty.” “It is making us better.”
Since the ad aired, Papa John’s customers have been firing back with similar comments such as this one: “Saying how you’re doing better would be a better strategy,” and “There wasn’t an apology anywhere in there, and you never actually acknowledged what you did wrong or how you’re going to fix it.” After sifting through all the backlash, it’s clear that customers were expecting an apology that was upfront about the issue and one that outlined plans for change.
It turns out that it pays to know how to apologize. With a sincere apology, you can begin to rebuild trust and calm the offended parties. The art of apologizing isn’t always an easy one. To craft an apology that appears sincere requires careful wording. PR pros will also tell you that timing is crucial, especially in today’s climate with news spreading like rapid fire. It’s important to rip the Band-Aid off and address the crisis as fast as possible. With that being said, Papa
John’s was slow at addressing the public, was not transparent about what happened and never truly apologized. It sounds like they could learn a thing or two from Hope-Beckham.
Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie has since released an open letter on the company’s website, which outlines what Papa John’s has done and will do to address diversity and company culture. Some strategies that he announced were unconscious bias training, which will start in October at the corporate office and at corporate-owned stores.