Not all PR is good PR

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. This week, Hailey discusses the bad PR Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea have received from the Trayvon Martin case.


The Trayvon Martin case has been all over every media outlet recently, and it’s causing a lot of controversy. However, I’m not going to get into the case itself. Instead I’m going to focus on the smaller pieces that have grown to be symbolic of something much larger. I’m talking about Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.

When 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida on the way home from the store, he was carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. Because of the controversial causes of the tragedy, the story has spread like wildfire and resulted in unwanted PR for both brands. Protesters are stapling labels to their signs and using Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea as symbols of racial injustice.

Although both brands have seen a rise in sales, they were thrown into this hot button issue and are now involuntarily associated with the racially charged case. Many people are urging both Wrigley, the maker of Skittles, and Arizona Iced Tea to donate their profits made from the case to support Trayvon Martin’s side. Some are even boycotting the brands for not doing so.

From a PR standpoint, what can Wrigley and Arizona Iced Tea do? They each commented on the case, expressing condolences for Trayvon Martin’s family and friends, but both said they feel it is inappropriate to become further involved. I personally agree. They are brands, not politicians, and shouldn’t be forced to take sides on something so controversial.

However, I do think there are ways they could step up their PR during this fiasco. Skittles does not comment about the issue on their Facebook page. That’s fine, but the comments that users are posting on their page are not.

  • “Sorry Skittles, we can’t be seen together anymore because black people are being shot whilst having you in their pocket.”
  • “With churches and protests everywhere asking members to wear hoodies and carry skittles it kinda makes you wonder…How much money is Skittles (and their parent company Wrigley) making on this? And will they donate any of the money towards Treyvon’s case? We should all go to the Skittles FB page and post the question. Use this status if you agree”
  • “It’s sad how a little boy got shot on his way home carrying skittles I think skittles company should help his family out”
  • “I respect all the pics and songs/videos for Trayvon Martin but stop makin these company money with buying ice tea & skittle do you really think they care one bit what happen to this young man?…………………….”

If Skittles truly wants to remain neutral, they need to do a better job of maintaining their Facebook page. With the harsh comments are all over their page, they need to either respond to their fans or address their decision to not take a side directly on Facebook – or both.

Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea are also drawing unwanted attention on Twitter. Check out BuzzFeed’s compilation of some tweets that link Trayvon Martin’s case with Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.

So what do you think? Are Wrigley and Arizona Iced Tea handling this the best way possible?

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