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January 11, 2013
Walgreens in Crisis Mode With Pitbull Owners
 
Pitbulls have a reputation for being tenacious dogs, but also loveable ones, depending on how you treat them. Walgreens apparently has a policy of allowing "some liberty" to its local stores on what products they can stock. The drug store chain may want to rethink that in light of the Facebook storm that has arisen over the sale of a pepper spray named for pitbulls at one or more  of its stores. It's a crisis challenge in a social media context.

The "social media team" at Walgreens apparently is scurrying to catch up with this story, and it truly needs to contain it. Here's a Facebook example of why, from Leslie Grinnell, of Eddie's Wheels for Pets in Massachusets:

"Shame on Walgreens for selling Pitbull Defense Pepper Spray. Helen Keller's service dog was a pitbull. Spanky and Our Gang's Dog was a pitbull. Eddie's Wheels is currently rehabilitating a pitbull puppy who was being groomed for fighting and has 3 crushed vertebrae. The abusers of pitbulls should be pepper-sprayed. Walgreens should not be promoting fear of a much maligned breed of dog."

This is a situation we're having difficulty keeping up with (Facebook's formats aren't exactly a podium). But as such, it's a perfect example of how crisis communication now has to be concerned with social media-abetted onslaughts. You don't any longer simply get out in front of a microphone and cameras and offer an apology.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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