In case 9-1, PepsiCo, the makers of Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi, was a target of a
scam that created a crisis for the company. PepsiCo was blamed, in multiple claims, for
selling cans of Diet Pepsi with foreign objects inside. The issue first arose as only a local
problem but soon escalated into a widespread, national news story and became a crisis in
the “point of no return” stage for Pepsi. The first case of a foreign object found in an
unopened can of Diet Pepsi was reported on June 9, 1993 in Tacoma, Washington.
Washington residents reported finding a used syringe in a half-empty Diet Pepsi can
(325). Only one local television station reported on this story. The following day, ...view middle of the document...
The FDA found
that there were no health hazards related to the claims and that it was impossible, because
of the high speed of the filling process, for foreign objects to find their way into a can at a
bottling factory. The FDA’s assistance was crucial for Pepsi because Pepsi’s targeted
publics were able to receive answers from a trustworthy and knowledgeable third party.
When the crisis spread to the national level, Pepsi knew it needed to do more than
let the local bottler handle the situation. First, Pepsi, along with the FDA, conducted
investigations of the bottling companies. This formal research was necessary for Pepsi to
perform in order to proceed with any further plans because it concluded that its
production operations were not at fault and could therefore take action to defend its
position. Next, Pepsi created an in-house crisis communications plan, which identified
four primary publics to target: the news media, the customers who purchased the product,
consumers, and employees and local Pepsi-Cola bottlers. Pepsi’s response focused on
four principles—put public safety first; find the problem and fix it; communicate
frequently, quickly and regularly; and take full responsibility for resolving the crisis—
and included the expertise of six departments. The public affairs department, with six
media relations specialists and operating under One Clear Voice, responded to all media
inquiries and provided frequent updates of facts and advances. Consumer Relations
handled the reports, comments and questions from consumers using its 24-hour toll-free
hotlines. Scientific and Regulatory Affairs assigned...