The Top 10 Reputation Crises of 2013

By Suzanne Woolley and Ben Steverman - 2013-11-15T18:07:38Z

Photograph by Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

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No. 5: Barilla Pasta

Guido Barilla, the non-executive chairman of Barilla Holding, never expected his remarks would be relayed all around the world when he told Italian radio: "We won't do ads with homosexuals, because we like the traditional family." Offended consumers called for a boycott on social media, pasta-making rival Bertolli posted a pro-gay ad in response and Barilla soon apologized. Diermeier says the public relations problem demonstrates the difficulties of operating in a global environment. "What started as a small story in Italy became a big story in the U.S. due to the controversial nature of the topic in that market," he says. "It's a textbook example of how a comment made in a local context can become a global crisis."

Barilla has since created a "diversity and inclusion board" of outside consultants and hired a chief diversity officer, says Luca Di Leo, Barilla's head of media relations. A new CEO that came on a year ago was already making diversity a priority, he says, "and the incident only accelerated this whole process."

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