On a recent trip to visit extended family, Cjala Surratt ’22, founder of the Black Citizens Brigade, was presented with a gift—her late grandmother’s boiler room jacket. Surratt’s grandmother had been a ship-fitter in Norfolk, Virginia, and the clothing item…
Papa John’s Needs to Focus on Diversity Training, Inclusivity and Rebranding
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has officially been removed from his office, according to reports. The company announced Friday that it would remove his image from marketing materials after he admitted to using the N-word during a company conference call.
Christal Johnson is a teaching professor of public relations at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Because Schnatter has been previously marketed as the face of the company, she says it may be a challenge for stakeholders to separate him from the organization.
“John Schnatter’s use of a racial slur during a May conference call has caused major reputational damage to Papa John’s image. Schnatter apologized for his indiscretion, but later, in a radio interview, blamed Papa John’s marketing agency for pressuring him to use the n-word. Apologizing and accepting responsibility are tenets to any effective crisis communication plan. However, Schnatter fell short with the latter, which further fueled Schnatter’s PR woes.
“Current CEO Steve Ritchie posted an open letter on the company’s website stating that, ‘Papa John’s is not an individual.’ However, the company’s marketing strategy has been centered around one person, Schnatter, as the face of the company. So, it may be a challenge for stakeholders to separate him from the organization.
“Moving forward, the company should focus on providing diversity training to all employees, rebranding its image, and making sure its corporate climate represents a diverse and inclusive organization to restore trust among its stakeholders, repair its damaged reputation and create lasting change.”
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