The Trials of Toilet Paper: How TP companies are battling criticism during COVID-19

Milk: Check

Bread: Check

Toilet Paper: …Wait, where is the toilet paper?

It’s a product we often don’t think about replenishing until the very last minute but as the coronavirus ramped up in the United States in early March, a rush for toilet paper caused somewhat of a panic, with TP sales up 112% over a four-week period compared to prior year.

But hang in there! According to Reuters, as if spotting a unicorn, U.S. consumers are spotting “rare Quilted Northern and Charmin toilet paper rolls on store shelves…” as TP stocks begin to build after weeks of shortages.

So how have toilet paper companies managed the panic on the public relations front?

Senior Communications Manager for Georgia-Pacific, owner of Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, Rebecca Glassman told PR Week that social chatter around a toilet paper shortage began March 9.

“We went from a small handful of messages, less than a dozen, to about 100 the next morning,” Glassman said.

Glassman said Georgia-Pacific’s brand and legal teams met to align their messaging and by March 13, Angel Soft and Quilted Northern had messaging out nearly 72 hours before their competitors.  Being first while also being accurate is often what we advise clients as critical in a crisis.

According to Glassman, the team recognized consumers’ frustration and felt it was their job to reassure the public that toilet paper was indeed being produced. Soon images of Angel Soft in production at Georgia-Pacific factories filled the brand’s social media channels.

And while the messaging calmed the anxiety of many consumers’ concerns, Angel Soft and Quilted Northern were still receiving negative @Mentions across their social channels.

According to Glassman, the company used this opportunity to reinforce their message as shown below in a March 17 tweet from Quilted Northern

 

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, consumers have asked toilet papers to share video of TP production, which Angel Soft quickly shared.

As of April, demand for toilet paper remains at a 27 percent high compared to pre-coronavirus levels, according to NC Solutions. But according to experts, the TP supply is finally catching up. Georgia-Pacific’s brands, for example, which is now producing more than 1.5 million roles per day says the company has shipped about 120 percent of normal capacity.

That’s good news for grocery stores, and, of course, consumers.