News is rocketing around the country today that former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle may be preparing to plead guilty to federal charges that he paid to engage in sexually explicit acts with minors and received and distributed child pornography.
Expect a social media tornado during the coming days for Jared and Subway, given the seriousness of the charges and the moral outrage that rightly is raised when sex crimes are committed involving children.
It remains to be seen how Subway will weather the storm, but so far its crisis response has lacked bite. A pithy tweet has been the only statement from the company on the matter: “We have already ended our relationship with Jared and have no further comment.”
Red Banyan Group founder and crisis pr expert Evan Nierman has expressed doubts that the lone tweet will be enough.
“In almost every instance, individuals and companies err when they declare that they will have no further comment since crises tend to eventually require them to break that vow of silence,” said Nierman. “Subway is seeking to have it both ways by noting in its post that it has ended its relationship Jared, while also issuing a variation of ‘no comment.’”
According to Nierman, any version of “no comment” signals that a company feels beleaguered and is adopting a bunker mentality aimed at lying low until the immediate crisis blows over and the media moves on to the next story of the day.
Nierman believes that to deal with its PR nightmare Subway should consider a more aggressive approach that emphasizes its own lack of responsibility for its former spokesman’s action and lays out the steps that it took to swiftly cut ties with him when the company became aware of his alleged misdeeds.
“Subway should be working overtime right now to separate its brand from Jared. It’s not easy given that he was the face of the company for so long, but it can be done. That could include drawing a moral distinction between his alleged actions and the company’s cooperation with law enforcement, or emphasizing the company’s values, its lack of knowledge of the crimes and how Jared’s alleged misdeeds do not reflect the company as a whole.”
Like it or not, the Subway scandal is going to force the company to face lots of additional questions. “No further comment” will probably be unsustainable, and is likely a missed opportunity to further sever Subway’s association with Jared.