If you've ever been to Fort Collins, Colorado, you've likely ventured to the outskirts of its historic district to sample popular beers like Fat Tire and 1554 at New Belgium's tasting room. The brewer has long touted its green-production policies—a stance popular with its customers—but recently found itself at the center of a media brouhaha when an ex-employee accused New Belgium of being less environmentally friendly than it claimed.
While marketing materials asserted products were produced entirely with wind-powered energy, argued the naysayer, New Belgium had in fact purchased carbon credits to offset very real emissions. Though a perfectly legal statement, its semantic nature presented a serious PR risk in this age of increased scrutiny.
You might expect the company to put up a fight. "Instead," notes Ciara O'Rourke in a post at the New York Times' Green Inc. blog, "New Belgium embraced the rebuke and used it as a catalyst for increased transparency in its first-ever sustainability report, which it published last month."
In addition to modifying its representation of wind-powered energy sources, the company has launched a series of initiatives such as finding locally produced raw materials and working with the city to reduce peak-load electricity demand.
The Marketing Inspiration is clear: If you receive fair criticism, don't get defensive. Instead, work toward a resolution and use the experience as an opportunity to seek out other ways to improve your product, service or impact on the community. Your reputation might actually improve in the process.
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