Just over one week ago, I posted my 100% Fresh Orange Juice? piece.
This follow-up story focuses on how the orange juice industry is trying to manage its brand positioning with consumers in the aftermath of Alissa Hamilton’s book, Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice.
The explosion of blogs, personal websites, discussion boards and myriad other social media has given anyone with a computer the ability to broadcast any message, image or video they care to share with the world. For individuals, that explosion can be liberating and empowering.
But just how much is actually seen or read by anyone? Or by anyone who actually cares? Organizations that care about their own reputation constantly monitor the web to keep track of what people are saying. Governments, corporations, not-for-profit organizations, etc. use automated tools to find out what’s being said about them and who is saying it.
This can be a tricky business for organizations. How far should they go to monitor their online reputation? When they don’t like what’s been said, what should they do? Should they try to find out about the person who posted something they don’t like to see if that person might be a real threat to the organization’s reputation and brand? Should they check them out using tools and resources like Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flicker, etc.?
When they see something online that they don’t like is it worthwhile to try to do something about it? Or does doing so just enlarge the discussion and perpetuate the very storyline that they don’t like?
Many corporations that monitor online comments and discussions about their products and services will join the conversation. When done well, they appear to care about their customers. Sometimes they’ll apologize for poor service; I’ve even seen companies promise refunds or replacements for products purchased by a dissatisfied customer. Doing so online, in the discussion forum, demonstrates to consumers that the company actually listens to consumers and really does care.
My story 100% Fresh Orange Juice? has attracted (painfully, for me!) few readers to date. Using blog tools on my site, I know that in the five days following publication, less than 20 people opened that story. Just how many people actually read it? Less than 20 for sure, because many people who found it in an online search would have quickly decided it was not the sort of thing they were looking for.
One of the people who did read it shortly after it was published is Karen Mathis, Public Relations Director, with the Florida Department of Citrus in Bartow Florida. Just five days after my story about orange juice, I received the following message from Ms. Mathis:
“On behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, I am writing in response to your article entitled “100% Fresh Orange Juice?” Please allow me to share further information.
One of the healthiest morning beverages, people choose 100 percent orange juice for its great taste and nutrition benefits. Both “from concentrate” and “not from concentrate” orange juice provide a variety of nutrients. In fact, an 8-ounce glass of 100 percent orange juice contains a host of phytonutrients that may help the body’s natural ability to support good health throughout life. Additionally, orange juice is more nutrient dense than many commonly consumed 100 percent fruit juices, such as apple, grape, pineapple and prune.
Approximately 68 percent of Canadian orange juice comes from the United States. By utilizing state-of-the-art technology, Florida is able to provide a consistent supply of high quality, nutritious orange juice year round. This orange juice is processed in strict compliance with all Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations.
The basic principle of orange juice processing is similar to how you make orange juice at home. Oranges are washed and the juice is extracted by squeezing the oranges. Seeds and particles are strained out. Orange juice is pasteurized to ensure food safety.
Please visit www.OrangeJuiceFacts.com for more information about orange juice.
Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss in more detail. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Public Relations Director, Florida Department of Citrus
 Rampersaud GC. J Food Sci. 2007;72:S261-S266.”
As soon as I received the above message I replied: “Good morning. Thank you for your interest. Please advise if anything I have posted to my blog is factually inaccurate. I would like to correct any content that is not true. What, if anything, needs correction?” If I do receive a response, I will definitely want to correct any misinformation.
As I mentioned at the outset, monitoring what’s being said online is standard practise in most organizations of any size that want to (try to) manage their reputation and protect their brand. Alissa Hamilton’s book has really put the orange juice industry on the defensive. The industry spends huge sums of money to ensure that orange juice is seen by consumers as a healthy, fresh and wholesome product. Hamilton’s book told the inside story that has shaken consumer confidence in that product.
People like Ms. Mathis have a tough job to do. There are few absolutely right or wrong steps to take in these situations. However, in this case, I don’t think I would have responded to a little-read blog. I think I would have preferred to let it go, and not do anything to perpetuate a story my organization may have not liked.
But, given that she did respond on behalf of her organization, here are my perspectives on what she shared.
1) The response refers to “100 percent orange juice” twice. Yet, as I recounted in my story, Hamilton noted it is legal to label something as 100 per cent orange juice even when it is, in fact, actually 90 per cent orange juice and 10 per cent tangerine juice. As I said in my last post, this is analogous to labelling a meat product 100% beef when it actually includes 10% horsemeat.
2) It’s also noted that “Approximately 68 percent of Canadian orange juice comes from the United States.” I now know that approximately 32 per cent of Canadian orange juice does not come from the United States. I thought 68 percent was a rather low number, so her information was very interesting to me. I am also confident that one year from now, the figure will be lower as Florida orange growers continue to get ‘Squeezed.’
3) It is noted that “…orange juice is processed in strict compliance with all Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations.” While orange juice producers may well strictly comply with Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations, these regulations, with respect to orange juice are not necessarily strict. The CFIA website notes that: “Orange Juice is not specifically listed in (the) Processed Products Regulations (PPR). It falls under the generic standard of identity “fruit juice” in Schedule II, Item 13, of the PPR.” Canada relies heavily on the oversight and standards of U.S. agencies when it comes many food products that are imported into Canada. With respect to orange juice, Hamilton’s book is often times highly critical of American food industry overseers.
4) I was also intrigued by the statement that “The basic principle of orange juice processing is similar to how you make orange juice at home. Oranges are washed and the juice is extracted by squeezing the oranges. Seeds and particles are strained out.” Really? When I squeeze oranges at home, I don’t use a multinational blend of oranges and tangerines. I don’t separate the orange oils and essence from the juice. I don’t boil it, de-areate it and store it for up to a year. And I certainly don’t buy the flavour for the juice from a third-party company and then recombine everything back in that frosty glass.
The “Bottom Line?” I read Hamilton’s book. I enjoyed it. It’s well-written. However, it’s a scathing and revealing indictment of the major (and powerful) orange juice players, including large manufacturers, industry groups, marketers and government agencies.
How to respond to criticism and ‘manage’ online reputations is a challenging thing for all organizations of any size. In the ‘old days’ when a negative print story was published, the media and public relations professionals typically had a straightforward choice to either write a letter to the editor or not. In the vast majority of cases, those letters—if they were written at all—were not sent. Why? It’s very hard to write a response that does not sound defensive. It is especially difficult if the ‘offended’ organization appears to be taking on a ‘little guy’. Besides, that approach also ensures that if the letter does get read, it will only perpetuate a story that most readers had likely already forgotten about.
A final thought. By the time you read this story, it will have already been caught in the search tools employed by the Florida Department of Citrus. Yes, you can be absolutely certain that “Alissa Hamilton”and “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice.” are standard search terms in a number of organizations!
Pantheon | John Ecker