Monday, January 29, 2007

The Final Frontier: How the Internet can spread good will or negative associations for Starbucks

After analyzing the content about Starbucks on the Internet, I found many, many people have something to say about the organization. There are many positive web mentions about Starbucks, including the corporate Web site. These sites further the Starbucks images as the world’s finest coffee provider. However, there are also negative sites that could harm this image. Major cites on the Internet, including web pages, video sites like YouTube, and social voting pages like dig, should be monitored by Starbucks regularly to help maintain a credible image and minimize threats to that image.

A quick Google search identified many sites that could potentially harm Starbucks, including the site I Hate Starbucks. Here, the operator of the site posts negative information about the company and provides an open forum for others to comment. And comment they did. Two of the largest complaints on the site were overpriced coffee and the feeling Starbucks acts as a predator to other businesses, essentially creating a lack of choice when it comes to coffee. The main page of the site has the Starbucks logo with a red slash through the center, another negative image.

Though any corporation should expect some negative feedback from customers, this site is a great liability to Starbucks because employees comment as well. Though some provide credibility to company, saying Starbucks creates a great work environment and a quality product, others use the site to vent their woes about work. One mentions a supervisor providing favorable shifts to a particular worker. Another says the manager is never there, and when he does come to work, he is under the influence of marijuana. Another professes in all upper case letters that no one should ever consider working for the company. Because negative comments from employees make a site such as I Hate Starbucks more credible, I would suggest a PR practitioner from the company to monitor the forum on a weekly basis. Employees should be asked to refrain from commenting on this site or other sites.

A neutral site, called, provides a place to talk about Starbucks with a slightly more positive spin than There are some negative entries on the site, but most of them are anecdotal or positive. However, as the name implies, this site could quickly spread false information about the company. Monitoring this site would allow PR practitioners to correct misinformation before many visitors read it.

Another site, documents a young man, named Winter, as he travels to every Starbucks in the world. He has gotten some press about this and those stories are linked to this page. He could be considered a threat or an opportunity to Starbucks, much like Jared for Subway. He is also making a documentary called Starbucking. I would suggest for Starbucks to join forces with Winter, creating a liaison between his quest and the company. This could ensure a more favorable impression for the store, especially if his documentary becomes popular.

YouTube is another web area PR practitioners should be aware of. A Starbucks search on YouTube brought up 400 entries. Some of these are positive, put up by Starbucks employees or by the corporate office. Many, however, are negative, including a 2.5-minute documentary about a protest many people around the nation participated in to urge Starbucks to raise the price given to Ethiopian farmers for their coffee. Because a legitimate organization produced this video, and it appears on the first page of the Starbucks search, this should be a concern of many officials. I would suggest Starbucks create their own videos to launch on YouTube and related sites to incorporate more positive, accurate information about the organization. It is important for the company to represent itself in this space. is anther site that mentions Starbucks. This one has the most credibility of the other sites reviewed, and acts as a news outlet. Members of vote on what to include on the page. Both positive and negative news could be uploaded to this page, and has been in the past. This is one demographic Starbucks should supply a favorable message to. If the members of Digg do not have a positive resonance with Starbucks, they could vote to not upload positive information about the company.

The Internet is certainly one of the best tools to disseminate information and create a company identity. However, it can also be the best way to destroy the image created by the organization. Outlets including the ones mentioned should be monitored, as each could be used as an opportunity for Starbucks to spread their own message. However, monitoring these cites, not just supplying the creators with information, is vital, as anti-Starbucks campaigns can be spread just as quickly.

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