See PR Week (3 February 2010): Nestle Briefs Agencies For Online Charm Offensive To Counter Criticism.
Nestle is embarking on an emergency online PR campaign to restore its reputation amid sustained criticism on the internet.
The world's largest foods company is ramping up its efforts to monitor online opinion, including looking for an agency to handle its worldwide 'buzz' monitoring.
The action comes as Nestle continues to encounter vociferous online opposition on a range of issues, from traditional concerns about its formula milk, to newer attacks on its digital marketing efforts.
Nestle received a 'positivity' score in social media of just 12 out of 100 in an audit by Yomego Social Media Reputation. Kraft scored 32.
The research firm analysed Nestle over three months. The low score is driven by anti-Nestle sentiment on blogs and Twitter.
Nestle's social media 'noise' level scored a relatively high 68. Rival Coca-Cola has a 'noise' score of 92.
Nestlé is one of the world's most boycotted companies according to its Global Public Affairs Manager Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi. It has been embarrassed to find information about its human rights abuses and other concerns divulged and talked about on the internet.
The internet advertising company ad.ly claimed last month that Nestlé is amongst the companies paying celebrities US$10,000 a time to post positive tweets on Twitter, according to Gossip.net. See:
In 2008 Nestlé attempted to hi-jack the Nestlé Critics site just days before its launch with a legal action claiming ownership of the domain name. The launch went ahead with a different domain name, but the original, which had already been publicised, was retained for 6 months so people had the opportunity to update their bookmarks. It was not handed over to Nestlé on the grounds it might attempt to undermine the launch by posting bogus information on the domain - not so paranoid when you consider that Nestlé has been exposed for employing a former MI6 officer to run a spying operation infiltrating Swiss campaign groups.
Nestlé subsequently launched a 500-page legal action for the domain name. As it had not bothered to answer our letter regarding decision to use a different domain name for the launch, this was seen as an attempt at harassment. It was also a waste of shareholder money as we had no need of the domain name after the successful launch of the new address.
The Nestlé Critics site serves as a portal for various campaigns on Nestlé malpractice:
The groups involved in the Nestlé Critics site have filed cases with the UN Global Compact calling for Nestlé to be excluded from this voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative for egregious violations and bringing it into disrepute. A exposé of Nestlé is one of the most popular downloads on our site. The case is ongoing. See:
Nestlé has arranged in the past for misinformation on its activities to be placed in the media by inviting journalists on all-expenses-paid trips to its head office in Switzerland. In 2008 it recruited Dr. Miriam Stoppard, a well-known media doctor, to make the invitation. See:
Then last year, Nestlé tried to influence parenting bloggers in the US by flying 20 of them to a 5-star hotel in California and setting up a tweet channel on Twitter for them to relate their experiences. This became a fully-fledged PR disaster for the company as people raised questions on the tweet channel about Nestlé malpractice and some of the bloggers invited questions to put to Nestlé executives. Briefly Nestlé appeared on the channel to try to take control, but left after an hour. Baby Milk Action had become aware of the event through traffic to our sites and offered to take part in a tweet debate with Nestlé, which was ignored.
Nestlé did respond to a blogger who had written an open letter to the attendees calling on them to reconsider, but the responses were so transparently dishonest that they added to the anger in cyberspace and led to a spontaneous Halloween boycott in the US, boosting International Nestlé-Free Week, which Baby Milk Action promotes at that time.
Nestlé's PR disaster fuelled many blogs and entered the mainstream media with, for example, an article in the LA Times:
There are already tools for corporations to check their reputations in cyberspace and we find some are used to track our sites. See:
Nestlé's move comes as it also attempts to improve its image by certifying 4-bar KitKat chocolate in the UK as Fairtrade, providing another focus for exposing Nestlé malpractice. Only 1% of Nestlé's cocoa purchase is involved and it is criticised for failing to deliver on a promise to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006.
The addition of the Fairtrade mark to KitKat may bring Nestlé some good publicity, but it has also apparently damaged the credibility of the Fairtrade mark:
Whoever wins Nestlé's PR contract will have a lot to do. Please let us know if you see signs of their activity.