Nestle briefs agencies for online charm offensive to counter criticism

Food giant steps up efforts to restore reputation amid sustained attacks on internet.

Charm offensive: Nestle
Charm offensive: Nestle

Nestle is embarking on an emergency online PR campaign to restore its reputation amid sustained criticism on the internet.

The world's largest foods company is ramping up its efforts to monitor online opinion, including looking for an agency to handle its worldwide 'buzz' monitoring.

The action comes as Nestle continues to encounter vociferous online opposition on a range of issues, from traditional concerns about its formula milk, to newer attacks on its digital marketing efforts.

Nestle is understood to be briefing agencies from its global HQ in Vevey, Switzerland. 'The company wants someone to help it chart a path through social media,' said one source involved in the pitch.

In October 2009, a social media crisis erupted after Nestle invited 20 influential 'mummy bloggers' to its US HQ for an all-expenses-paid meeting with its CEO.

Anti-Nestle activists, including other parenting bloggers, responded by hijacking the relevant Twitter hashtag and launching a highly visible opposition campaign.

'That left a bad taste,' admitted another source involved in the review. 'Nestle does face a lot of issues, but its concern is more about the legacy of the past - this idea that stories don't die online.'

For the past three decades, Nestle has faced a continued boycott because of concern over the company's infant formula milk business in developing countries.

It is thought that PR and marketing agencies from Publicis Groupe, which counts a long-term relationship with various Nestle units, are among those involved in the review. Nestle has also worked with Nielsen BuzzMetrics on its North American monitoring brief in the past.

Nestle head of corporate media relations Robin Tickle declined to comment.

HOW NESTLE FARES

Nestle received a 'positivity' score in social media of just 12 out of 100 in an audit by Yomego Social Media Reputation. Kraft scored 32.

The research firm analysed Nestle over three months. The low score is driven by anti-Nestle sentiment on blogs and Twitter.

Nestle's social media 'noise' level scored a relatively high 68. Rival Coca-Cola has a 'noise' score of 92.

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