Shame on you, Starbucks

Earlier this week, Starbucks was lauded for its announcement to provide free college tuition to its employees. Only days later, the resulting media buzz turned from congratulatory to accusatory.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It turns out that the international chain isn’t really paying for its employees’ education, it instead struck a deal with an online college, which reduced its price for the employees of the coffee company. This all came to light after the president of the institution “spilled the beans” to a trade publication.

What’s shocking about this is Starbucks’ hubris in thinking that it could so completely mislead the public. Starbucks is no stranger to making major announcements, which makes one wonder what else they have successfully covered up.

In today’s world of transparency and truthfulness, Starbucks should have known better than to break those two cardinal rules of public relations. A mistake of this scale seems out of place in the year 2014, one would have hoped that a public relations professional would have spoken up to prevent the blunder. Or maybe one did and no one listened.

What do you think, did Starbucks learn its lesson?

Written by

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson has extensive experience in media relations, crisis communication and internal communication. An employee of Red Shoes PR since 2009 and a public relations practitioner for more than a decade, Maria specializes in strategic health care communication. Maria graduated from Marquette University and is on the board of directors for Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley and Fox Cities Community Health Center, and is on the board of trustees for Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Green Bay. She also volunteers for St. Therese Church.

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