5 takeaways from the Papa John’s debacle

The pizza chain became a lightning rod for criticism after it insulted an Asian-American woman, and the incident provides crisis lessons for all PR pros.

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An unofficial count found nearly 500 news hits covering the Papa John’s story. It began with a 10-word tweet from a customer, accompanied by a twitpic of her Papa John’s receipt that referred to her as “lady chinky eyes.”

The customer is the communications manager for ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism outlet.

Now there are calls for boycotts, and phone lines at this particular upper Manhattan franchise are overloaded with prank calls from people ordering Chinese food.

Papa John’s Twitter account went from ebullient tweets about reaching 2 million Facebook fans and giving away free pizzas to posting hundreds of responses about the incident, saying over and over: “We are very upset by recent receipt issue in New York & sincerely apologize to our customer. Franchise employee involved is being terminated.”

The issue was compounded when an employee was quoted in the media as saying, “I think the lady put it out there just to get some attention—some people like that type of attention. I truly don’t think it’s fair. It’s been taking up all our time. It’s been very disruptive.”

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