Starbucks globalises comms in quest for ethical image

Coffee chain moves to centralise PR control under one agency after running tap fiasco.

Starbucks has handed its global PR account to Edelman, as the coffee retailer battles to restore its ethical credentials.

The firm, previously the target of anti-globalisation protests, has ditched Fishburn Hedges after little more than a year and has also terminated an account with Paratus Communications.

Edelman already handles Starbucks' PR in countries across the world, including the UK. But the new UK brief will include corporate and consumer media relations, as well as stakeholder management activity. Edelman MD of public affairs Alex Bigg will head the account.

Insiders said Starbucks wanted to 'centralise control' by having one agency to handle both its UK and US accounts. This way, it hopes to ensure a cohesive global message emerging from its US office.

A Starbucks spokeswoman declined to comment on why the company had switched agencies. But the company issued a statement: 'The focus will be on increasing awareness of Starbucks Coffee Company's commitment to being a responsible company, be that in how we source our coffee or how we work with the communities around our stores.'

The coffee chain hit the headlines earlier this month when The Sun exposed its policy of leaving a water tap running constantly in each of its 10,000 stores.

PRWeek revealed a major UK PR agency had already warned Starbucks at least two years previously that the policy was a potential comms disaster (PRWeek, 10 October).

Fishburn Hedges was awarded the wide-ranging corporate communications and public affairs brief after a three-way pitch last year (PRWeek, 25 July 2007).

Paratus Communications was hired in 2004 to handle regional PR activity. Its brief was expanded two years ago to include Starbucks' national consumer PR work.

TIME LINE

6 October: Starbucks is blasted in The Sun for constantly running water in its 10,000 stores worldwide

31 May: Prostesters demonstrate after a Brighton branch opens without planning permission

30 May: Starbucks under fire in the US for a logo featuring 'naked breasts'

21 March: US judge orders Starbucks to repay California coffee-makers more than £50m in tips paid to shift supervisors.

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