Public Relations




The trickiest part of public relations is when everything hits the fan and there’s a crisis. This is exactly what happened at Uncommon Grounds Coffee. Through a press release, website article, blog, and social media posts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we utilized the power of storytelling  which not only averted crisis, but also engaged buyers and involved them in the positive changes the company was making.


Uncommon Grounds, a global coffee retailer that vaunts its ethical supply chain, had a public relations crisis. It was discovered that some of the beans were not purchased directly from farmers through fair trade as advertised, but through other big coffee suppliers known for their unethical practices.

Employees at all levels of the organization are rumored to be culpable, leaving the workforce divided. Now that this scandal has come to light, the organization stands to lose credibility with its customers, employees, and suppliers. In that regard, the image of the company, which is one of  “social responsibility,” is threatened as well.



      1. Apologize and announce change is coming
      2. Communicate that the problem has been recognized by top-level management
      3. Communicate that appropriate steps are being taken to ensure stoppage of profit loss.
      4. Create a plan of action that guarantees transparency in the ethical reestablishment of fair-trade policies with suppliers
      5. Stop the rumors that employees could be subject to immediate and ongoing layoffs
      6. Create social media awareness of the immediate actions that the company is taking to monitor the supply chain into the future.
      7. Announce the pursuit of becoming a Certified B Company, one that is praised for its ethical practices


Press Release


Focal points:

    • It acknowledges a problem was discovered.
    • It communicates has several quotes from the CEO, who is the primary spokesperson
    • It explains steps are being taken
    • It promises complete transparency and third party governance
    • It also apologizes to employees for placing them in an environment which placed economic gain over ethical behavior
    • It explains the company will provide employees with increased engagement with owners and workers on fair-trade plantations so they can see the impact of their actions
    • It announces the intention of Uncommon Grounds to become a Certified B Corp, which shows they are on an established track of ethical behavior



Website Article written by the CEO


Why? Because we needed to show that the CEO was committed to steering the company in an entirely new direction.  Consumers needed to hear from him, to know he was committed to fair-trade practices and to the re-education of his employees.  Here he states:


“We knew an apology wasn’t enough…. It was time for a change and a big one.”

“We knew we had to re-establish that connection, so they could see what our founders could see … the faces behind the numbers.”

This website article allowed gave the brand a voice and worked to restore customer faith.

Blog Written by Employee


The point of this series of blogs is to feature the experiences of the Uncommon Grounds employees during the promised re-education process.

“I’m visiting here as part of Uncommon Grounds Coffee’s new program to increase social responsibility…They want us to meet with the farmers of the local fair-trade cooperatives so we can understand the impact of our daily decisions when purchasing beans from an ethical supply chain… Already, I have learned so much.”

These glimpses into the experience of employees is designed to give credence to the fact that things at Uncommon Grounds are changing.  It also allows Uncommon Grounds to start to showcase the changes they are making as they begin on the track towards B Corp Certification.

By using appropriate SEO descriptors, this blog series should begin to feature them in the limelight. It tells a story, which is entertaining, features a video about the plantation itself and also has many photos which further increase engagement.


Social Media Posts


In this case study, it is assumed that Uncommon Grounds is being blasted on Social Media.  The fact that they so publicly touted that their coffee was bought with Fair Trade practices, which turned out to be entirely untrue gives too much material to the competition.  The goal of these social media posts is to accept responsibility, explain the company is redirecting their efforts by showcasing the employee re-education and new packaging which focuses on transparency of product.

In addition, the company will begin chasing the goal of B Corp certification. B Corp Certification is a high goal for a company which has recently stepped into the much, however, the association builds positive associations and, if the posts showcase their work towards the goal, the negativity will fall away. In the meantime, a few eyebrows may be raised, but everyone loves an underdog.

Twitter Strategy: Increased Transparency of Product Origin 


FIRST TWEET  The best thing to do in the midst of a crisis of this type is to accept responsibility, apologize and include a quote from the CEO which states that everything possible is being done to resolve it (Santiago, 2018) This tweet quotes the CEO, who accepts culpability and promises change. The last part of the quote, “That changes now” is a promise, strengthened by the video of the Blandon Farm, a coffee plantation. Obviously, for it to be filmed, transparency is increasing, which addresses the issue.  This video is available in a hyperlink in the press release, but is showcased in the first blog entry featuring the farms as well.

SECOND TWEET  The second tweet announces the decision of Uncommon Grounds to become a B Corporation by tweeting the title and subtitle of the Press Release.  It contains the handle of the @BCorporation with the hope of  eliciting a response which would serve to further the association between the two. The video has a short overview of what becoming a B Corp. entails.

THIRD TWEET  The final tweet showcases the first step that Uncommon Grounds has made to increase the transparency of coffee origin and ensure that the product in the bag is fair-trade certified. According to the expert panel at Forbes Agency Council, it is important to “communicate with the media on what steps you are taking to resolve the problem”. The tweet below adheres to this advice and showcases the new bag with a QR code which shows the exact fair trade farm the product is from and offers a link to a blog (written by an employee – like the one featured above) about that farm.

Facebook Strategy: Every Bag tells a Story


Facebook is a strong platform with 1.79 billion users visiting Facebook daily. It was chosen as a social platform for Uncommon Grounds not only because of its vast reach, but because all posts here can easily be shared with its affiliated platforms (Instagram, WhatsApp) with ease.

Several strategies were taken into account when writing the profile and creating the posts.  The tone used was friendly, conversational and respectful. The sentences are simple and concise. While the emphasis was placed on accomplishments, the previous shortcomings were listed in the about section as being straightforward is valued.  If a text post is more concise (limited to 250 characters or fewer), users are more willing to commit the time to engaging with your content and so content is kept short. Emoticons were also inserted into posts to can humanize the brand. Research has indicated that the use of emoticons yields engagement rates that are 57% higher in “Likes”, 33% higher in shares, and 33% higher in comments. Lastly, every post features an image or a video because posts which contain images account for 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more clicks. 

The first post showcases the new packaging which is important because these posts are primarily focused on educating potential and existing consumers about the change made to increase the transparency of product origin.

The second post features the packaging and the Blandón Family coffee farm to visually translate the connection between the two; that is that the QR code will lead to a blog and video about the farm from whence the coffee came.

The third post showcases what fair-trade practices are able to achieve, in this case, contribute to building better schools. This image was chosen because the children getting an education holds an emotional appeal and the adult sitting in the classroom arouses curiosity. The image and the link click through to the blog which features the story in more detail.

Together, these three posts begin to showcase the changes that are already in effect which lends strength to the statement that the company is being actively re-structured with B Corp Certification as the goal.

LinkedIn Strategy: Becoming Certified B Corp within 5 years


The business platform chosen to represent the company is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a strong platform which can be used to create awareness and improve credibility with consumers and other businesses. The recent revelation that Uncommon Grounds has not been abiding by fair-trade practices demands improved credibility and the best way to improve the public’s perception is to consistently showcase the changes they have made.  LinkedIn also is a strong platform on which to position the company as a leader in thought. Having a platform where Uncommon Grounds can showcase the change being made is key, not only to eradicating the recent bad press, but to entering into the quest for a B Corp Certification with an accompanying sense of vibrancy.

The LinkedIn profile has a tone which is authentic and tells the story of the company’s origin and the recent changes they have made to abide by the ethos of their company.  It is anchored with real events and accomplishments which gives it further credibility. (Handley, 2012) It also utilizes the previously researched keywords to optimize organic SEO and ensure reach. In order to ensure copy and call-to-action will not be cut off, the LinkedIn post length has been kept to 210 characters or less. 

STRATEGY: The posts highlight the different accomplishments of Uncommon Grounds in their pursuit for a Certified B Corp status. 

The first post announces the intention of the company to pursue a B Corp Status with the accompanying statement from the CEO.  This statement is a SMART goal as it lists the exact objective, to become B Corp Certified, which is a highly structured process in and of itself and also gives a time frame in which this goal will be achieved. This gives the goal weight, credence and structure.  It also includes a video explaining the definition of B Corp.  Most importantly, the post also links to the website article which gives context to the quote and tells the full story of how and why Uncommon Grounds has committed to this goal. Finally, it includes three hashtags which feature previously research long and short tail keywords.

The second post features one of the fair-trade farms which Uncommon Grounds.  It explains that the QR Code on the new packaging lists to the exact farm where the beans came from. The static image which links to the video features the bag of coffee with an arrow pointing to the QR code with the Blandon Farm video nestled in the back, available with a click.  This image showcases how the process works and strongly supports the premise that the company is working on the transparency of their product’s fair-trade origin.  This is important because according to marketing industry influencer Krista Neher, the human brain can process images up to 60,000 times faster than words. (Arnold, 2021) With the trend in shortened attention span, the image’s ability to communicate without words is key. The video is included because it tells the story of how fair trade impacts the farmers and also because 82% of viewers would rather watch live video than read social media posts. (Stetsky, 2020) The included link leads to the blog about the Blandon farm.  The blog gives further proof of fair-trade origin and showcases the social responsibility initiatives of Uncommon Grounds in action.

The third post features the new employee education initiative. Part of applying for a Certified B Corporation is to ensure that the work culture is positive. When the scandal broke, there was much fear circulating that there would be mass firings. By choosing to re-educate employees in an interactive, engaging way, the administration has taken on a supportive rather than punitive role. This in turn, will serve to build a positive culture within the company which will, in turn, be a foundational step in achieving the employee section of the B Corp Certification. The image has the CEO’s quote within it and features an employee shaking hands with a farmer. This shows the program in action but also reassures consumers that there is tangible contact between employees and their partnering fair-trade farmers. The link leads to the press release which delineates the changes being made.