Commentary: No, Lucky’s, that’s not how you do PR

Niwot-based Lucky’s Market had a pretty depressing day, Tuesday. News broke early in the day in Florida that the natural-grocery chain planned to close 20 stores in the state, and perhaps 32 of 39 stores nationwide.

That word “perhaps” is key because no one from Lucky’s would comment — not to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which first broke the story, nor to BizWest, which reached out repeatedly to the Lucky’s public-relations team. And, we suspect, comments were not forthcoming to other publications in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Wyoming, as news outlets attempted to determine the fate of stores in their markets.

We love Lucky’s. It’s a Boulder Valley institution that has done much good both locally and around the country. But the company violated a core tenet of crisis communications: Get the facts out, as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Instead, Lucky’s officials were MIA. News outlets — including BizWest — were left to secure the facts wherever and however they could. That meant calling local stores, speaking with receptionists or other employees. Calls that should have been answered by a trained PR official with all the facts at hand were left to be answered by others.

In the end, BizWest confirmed from various store employees that the stores in south Boulder, Longmont and Wheat Ridge would close in Colorado, leaving the north Boulder and Fort Collins stores as the sole remaining outlets in the state.

Other media around the country confirmed closures in the same way.

The lack of responsiveness from Lucky’s proved a burden on their employees, and it left the overall public — including their loyal customers around the country — wondering what was happening, commiserating on social media and emailing news outlets to determine what they knew. They deserved better.

Lucky’s finally provided some information late Tuesday afternoon, posting on 39 individual Lucky’s Facebook pages whether that particular store would close or remain open. They all ran something like this post on the Lucky’s Longmont page:

“There has been some recent news circulating about Lucky’s stores closing,” the post read. “Unfortunately, our Longmont store will be closing and starting tomorrow, we will be offering significant discounts on all products in the store. We want to thank you for shopping with us. We’ve made some amazing friendships and together have supported some incredible community organizations.”

The company followed up on Wednesday afternoon, with a series of tweets:

“We’re sad to say the rumors are true. We’re closing many of our stores and couldn’t be more upset to be leaving so many communities who have supported us for years. What we built with you, our loyal customers, was not in vain. You helped contribute to our mission: Good Food for All. We appreciate the many shopping trips you put in and pints of beer you drank in our stores. We will be continuing on with our stores in North Boulder, Fort Collins, Traverse City, West Mel Bourne, Cleveland, Columbus and Columbia. We love the heck out of you.”

We love you, too, Lucky’s. But please understand that when it comes to negative news, getting the facts out fast should be paramount.