farm to table

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The company Reputation Management has asked me to comment on how a brand can bounce back from poor online reviews.

I believe it’s best to leave them up. As hard and painful as it is, it’s “real world” online commerce. Not everyone is a super model. Not everyone bats .400. To err is human.  How you overcome quality or service problems dictates how you improve. If a product has flaws, fix them. Or acknowledge why they happen. When Chipotle made people sick, it acknowledged “farm to table” is not easy. Healthier is not easy. And they changed.

When Marmot, known for quality in winter gear, gets a bad review, it isn’t defensive, it works even harder to make better product.

Today, if an e-commerce site doesn’t have poor reviews people know it’s been cleaned.

Also, a strong brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is also a good way to maintain reputation.  Using an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging feeds the market the information it needs to understand your product. When care-about and good-ats align, brands are hard to tear down. When you simplify and strengthen your value, a few disorganized comments won’t hurt. They just make you real.



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Chipotle is on the verge of turning its PR fiasco around. I’ve written before how Chipotle mishandled things related to food poisoning at its restaurant, but now they seem to be on the right track. They’re explaining and turning a negative outcome into a learning moment. For themselves and the public. Farm-to-table is not as easy to monitor as is the use of pasteurized products from huge mega-providers. Food prepared in stores is not as easily monitored as is food send forth pre-prepped and pre-cooked at regional hubs.

Educating the populace about this business model – and its challenges – is good business. A CEO letter to the public filled with platitudes about “never more vigilant” and the like is Business 101…and very un-Chipotle-like.  But learning and teaching moments are how smart companies do PR.

Stop the spin. Learn and teach. That’s easier. Bravo Chipotle.




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