When to leave well-enough alone might just elude Papa John’s and its notorious CEO, John Schnatter. It seems that even after the major public relations fail of loudly protesting the Obamacare ruling and making a scene about cutting hours and raising prices to accommodate it, the big guy who’s happy enough to give away 2 million free pizzas to Super Bowl fans despite all this financial constraint, has now sicced his “people” on journalists who covered the story. Oh, yes. If you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, you can at least try to get the tube shoved under the rug. Or, that appears to be the thinking of Mr. Schnatter and his new PR dogs, a firm called Sitrick. According to a breaking story in the Stabley Times, Sitrick has come after them to take down a story they reported on a CNN investigative report on Papa John’s claim that he’d have to raise the price of pizza because of Obamacare. Did you get that? Papa John’s PR stooges asked Stabley Times to take down their story on CNN. Wow, huh? Claiming that the media has taken the whole damn thing out of context, Stirick even went so far as to claim they’ve asked other media outlets to take down their critical stories and, by golly, they have! Personally, I’d like to see proof of that. Here’s what Stabley had to say: In reference to why Papa John’s would come after a publication like ours for simply relaying something that CNN had reported about the pizza chain, the PR firm claims that it “somehow missed the CNN story about which you wrote.” This despite the fact that CNN first aired the clip in August of last year, and has since become the most often cited proof that Schnatter’s claims of increased costs were dishonest… In the interest of fairness, Papa John’s representative offered this as its reasoning for why our coverage of the matter should be unpublished, which we’ll share here: “What [Schnatter] said, in response to an investor call, was the company estimated that Obamacare would result in an increased cost to the company of approximately 11 cents to 14 cents per pizza, ‘but our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare, ergo, we have a high ticket average with extremely high frequency of order counts, millions of pizzas per year.’” The pizza chain appears to be attempting to split hairs as to whether Schnatter claimed he would actually raise prices as a result of ObamaCare, or whether he would simply see his own costs rise and absorb the cost. But the research done by CNN makes clear that ObamaCare will not cause Papa John’s to see a cost increase of any kind, which means that in either case Schnatter’s claim is a false one… That feisty Stabley Times and their damn nitpicking clarity! So, after an explosive backlash to Schnatter’s ham-handed whine-fest about having to offer his employees coverage, and after countless very loud and very nationwide boycotts went into action – something I covered in a piece called Beware Bashing Obamacare – It Could Cost Your Reputation which confirmed via a YouGovBrandIndex survey that the company had taken a BIG hit on the PR front), they’re now going to follow that mess with “suggestions” to media to take down their stories covering that mess?? y question is, what idiot is running the show over there? Full disclosure: I don’t eat Papa John’s pizza, I’ve never eaten Papa John’s pizza and after this ridiculous fracas I will make it a point to keep it that way. But clearly the argument isn’t with the pros or cons of said pizza. The argument is with a big-money, big business CEO who’s shortsighted enough to let his politics lead him by the nose on issues of following the law on healthcare for his employees, then doubles down by telling his customers he’s going to have to raise prices, setting off boycotts that hit his bottom line, and THEN…sets his PR flacks to go after the journalists who wrote about all of it.
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