Friday, February 12, 2010

[yellow tail]: No good deed goes unpunished

PR Daily this morning alerted me to an issue brewing for Australia’s [yellow tail] wine company, which reportedly accounts for "almost half the Australian wine purchased in the U.S."

Last week, the company announced a $100,000 donation to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), in a campaign called “[tails] for tails”. According to [yellow tail]’s news release, “[yellow tail] will make use of social media and in-store advertising to spread the message that consumers can "pick up a bottle of [yellow tail] and help a tail-wagging friend."”

Sounds nice, right? Kudos to [yellow tail] for sharing its success and putting some of its profits back into the community, right?

Not so fast, say American meat producers and members of associated industries, who are all too familiar with HSUS’s history of undertaking campaigns to interfere with their business.

In an article called “Yellow Tail stubs its toe” this week, beef industry magazine Drovers outlines the backlash [yellow tail] has drawn in the U.S. The opposition has grown quickly online, with a Facebook group called Yellowfail already counting almost 2400 fans. A YouTube video featuring a South Dakota cattle rancher (below) has more than 5800 views, and the #yellowfail hashtag on Twitter has been buzzing.

What’s a company to do?

Frankly, it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. Every corporate donation has the potential to irritate someone – whether it’s because they disagree with the cause you’ve supported, or because they feel your support would have benefited more people elsewhere.

But a full situation analysis can help a company make the best choices:
  • it will help you understand what’s important to your customers (like, for instance, support for American farmers and all the associated industries)
  • it will help ensure you have a full appreciation for the activities of the group you’re supporting (and who their opponents are likely to be), and their impacts on your customers
Industry journal Pork re-printed [yellow tail]’s response to a request for comment from sister publication Bovine Veterinarian magazine; it includes the following:

"We’ve listened to your recent feedback and it was very helpful to us – in fact it prompted us to specifically choose the areas where we’d most like to celebrate animals. Here’s what we’ve decided: We’ll still honor our monetary commitment to the HSUS, but now we are specifically directing our $100,000 donation to HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team, which launch on-the-ground missions to rescue animals in peril. The HSUS Animal Rescue Team is a leading disaster response agency for animals, contributing millions of dollars to rebuild animal shelters destroyed in natural disasters, responding to floods, fires, and other disasters.

We may not always agree with 100 percent of what an organization represents, but rescuing animals displaced from natural disasters is a cause we support."

I’m certain [yellow tail]’s support for the HSUS was pledged with the best of intentions; as they learned, though, sometimes the best of intentions aren’t quite enough.

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