Greggs shows how to salvage a potential PR disaster

Today Greggs here in the UK (best known for their sausage rolls and pastry treats) hit the headlines after their logo when you Googled them went somewhat squiffy.

How they dealt with it and their actions via social media, particularly Twitter, provide a lesson in how to handle a potential crisis with good grace, humour and a crumb or two of common sense.

Discover what happened and read their response via my Storify below.

GreggsAccording to the Independent, the bakery chain fell foul of Google’s algorithms, with an, um, unofficial logo appearing when searches for Greggs were carried out online today.

The Independent states: “When searching for well-known individuals or companies, Google likes to pull in a bit of a rough bio and illustrate it with a logo or picture.

“Unfortunately, Greggs’ most popular logo comes with what is most definitely an unofficial ‘motto’”. (pictured)

Its normal logo was replaced with a spoof image pulled in from, featuring the offensive slogan.

Seeing as lots of people read my blog posts on their work devices, I’m not going to use the offensive word – but you can see it in the pic.

So what did Greggs do well?

They were honest
They reacted to people tweeting them asking if they were aware of the situation and clearly showed there were human beings behind the account. That sounds easy, but there are countless examples online (and in my Storify) of companies responding to unfolding situations using staid language and jargon, which often ignites the situation as readers react.

Tip: You can’t control what people say about you, you can control how you react and respond. (Tweet this)

They used humour to help steer them through
It goes without saying that having your brand described in the way it has been online today is far from ideal, but how Greggs reacted and responded was to not get drawn into a blame game. Instead they focused firmly on resolving the situation – by Tweeting Google (and I imagine exchanging a fair number of other communication methods!) to try and rectify it.

They tweeted appropriately with Google
Looking at the language and images used by Google and Greggs, they were both having an equally jolly time providing visual messages to each other in full view of the public. Yet as any comms pro knows, mid-crisis, countless cups of tea and reassuring calls to the powers that be were undoubtedly being exchanged!

Tip: Make smart choices about the tone, style and appropriateness of your crisis communication. The key thing to bear in mind is the context of the situation. There isn’t a one size fits all approach for every crisis, so choose based on the events you’re dealing with, rather than a textbook answer. (Tweet this)

(I’d love to know from the Greggs team how they communicated internally with employees regarding the unfolding events of today – do please get in touch if you’d like to share an insight into what it was like from your end. What do you think you did well or what would you do differently in future?).

One assumes that the way Google was tweeting today fits with their brand identity – I was certainly not surprised by the way they were communicating. But hats off to the comms pros at Greggs for rising to the challenge and starting to wrestle the headlines away from the negative to a positive.

Want to read about brand vandals?
brandvandalsSee my article about a book I contributed to – Brandvandals by Stephen Waddington @wadds, and Steve Earl last year, which looked at online reputations and how they can rise and fall due to a single Tweet.

The book is packed full of good examples of how companies have handled situations which were potential PR disasters, via social media. I’ve also created a SlideShare of what I think IC pros can learn from it.

More on Google
I’ve written about Google various times before on my blog, including the talk I gave at their Atmosphere event in April about using social media for corporate communication, how to use Google+ for internal comms and how Google recruits.

You can read today’s full conversation via my Storify below.


Want to talk more about using social media? I’m running a course for the Institute of Internal Communication on 9 September in London. The topic is Social Media: Strategy and tactics to improve collaboration and communication.

You can find out more information online including how to book your place.

What do you think of the way Greggs and Google communicated today? As ever you’re welcome to comment below or you can Tweet me @AllthingsIC.


First published on All Things IC blog 19 August 2014.

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