The Challenge

A Midwest retail chain experienced public backlash over a labor issue, including an explosion of negative social media reaching around the world. The social media campaign called for a boycott that was impacting patronage and sales. The company’s legal counsel connected them with us for communications assistance to help them tell their story.

The Solution

Working with the CEO, we sought to learn both sides of the story in detail and put the situation into perspective. We helped the client focus on their core stakeholders (especially customers) and dismiss empty social media threats. Our primary strategy was to change the conversation, shifting away from the specific labor dispute, and instead reinforcing with customers the retailer’s dedicated staff and history of positive customer experiences.

For news media, our campaign included drafting an official statement and a body of language for our clients to stay on message during news interviews. We also helped draft op-ed pieces that framed the conversation within context. Outside of traditional media, the campaign included a counter social media strategy of positive messaging, avoiding any contact that would exacerbate tensions. And, we also helped implement a strategic buy of paid media including radio and billboard ads, for which we produced the creative.

Lastly, we assisted with internal communications, regarding how to handle media and facts around the situation to well-inform, prepare and set expectations with employees for current and future events. As with any labor dispute, winning over or keeping your employees as advocates can have a stabilizing effect on the community in both the short and long term.


Sales rebounded to their normal levels within six weeks. The social media flame snuffed out without further tinder added to fuel the fire. The client expressed satisfaction with the results, the quality of our messaging and creative communications, our steady guidance through a difficult season and the level-headedness we offered as the calm during the storm.

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