ConAgra, Ketchum caught in blogger backfire

Consumer and commercial food manufacturer ConAgra recently faced some negative press, including being spotlighted by the New York Times, after a dinner event for food and mom bloggers didn't go as planned.

Consumer and commercial food manufacturer ConAgra recently faced some negative press, including being spotlighted by the The New York Times, after a dinner event for food and mom bloggers didn't go as planned.

Bloggers were invited to Sotto Terra in New York's West Village for a four-course meal and a surprise, but when the surprise was revealed, guests were far from pleased. From the Times:

The surprise: rather than being prepared by the chef, the lasagna they were served was Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna by Marie Callender's, a frozen line from ConAgra Foods. Hidden cameras at the dinners, which were orchestrated by the Ketchum public relations unit of the Omnicom Group, captured reactions to the lasagna and to the dessert, Razzleberry Pie, also from Marie Callender's.

The event ultimately led to some negative online posts from the bloggers - and then the Times. I called Ketchum to hear their thoughts on this PR stunt gone wrong. 

“Some of the bloggers, having been surprised, really expressed some disappointment and frustration, and in hindsight, it was not ConAgra's intent or certainly not ours to frustrate anybody and we apologize,” said Jackie Burton, VP and director of corporate communications at Ketchum.

Burton said the agency is making sure that its internal teams have a more heightened sensitivity when dealing with surprise events so that mishaps like this don't happen again in the future.

“We want to continue to put bold and creative ideas into the market and with that we need to make sure that we're constantly learning from not only past events, but all of the experiences that we've had within the agency,” she added.

In the future, maybe ConAgra should present the details of an event in a way that can't be misconstrued by those invited. Perhaps with surprise event invitations, less truly is more.

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