PR Fail: Food Website Exploits Boston Tragedy

Why, for the love of all that is decent, human, and empathetic, haven’t brands figured out that it is never okay to exploit a tragedy that irreversibly altered and ended human lives?

In the hot seat for today’s installment of who the hell let this company near a Twitter feed, is food website Epicurious. In the wake of the horrific events at Monday’s Boston Marathon, the company tweeted this to its 385,000 followers:

As a lifetime Massachusetts resident, I was particularly appalled and offended by this gross, clumsy, and unfathomably insensitive attempt at self-promotion. The suggestion that a recipe for cranberry scones or a bowl of cereal could somehow alleviate the sense of fear and loss that swept Boston, Massachusetts, and the country after the explosions would be laughable if it weren’t so terrible.

And then, instead of making real, human apologies or taking any meaningful steps to backtrack or make up for their offense, Epicurious chose to simply tweet the same cookie-cutter mea culpa over and over again:

Even this half-hearted apology is bristling – the company apologizes that its tweets “seemed offensive”, not that they were offensive, as if their outraged followers were overreacting to a harmless message.

They’ve since tweeted this slightly more sincere-sounding apology, but it’s a bit too little and a bit too late:


I agree with Mr. Media Training that if Epicurious hopes to secure any sort of bounce-back from this, it will need to start doing some serious outreach, making genuine, human apologies, taking responsibility for its actions, and promising real-world steps it will take to ensure its social media accounts are better managed in the future.

In the meantime, I am comfortable making this blanket statement: in general, during times of such human tragedy, the only good PR that brands should try to garner is from sincere condolences and direct aid to victims and organizations dedicated to helping them — and their city — heal.