Regardless of whether a food recall happens through government mandate or voluntary action, there’s much at stake, from major recall implementation expenses to rippling reputational challenges. If you don’t manage the situation properly and proactively, you’re unlikely to be successful in protecting your customer relationships and rebuilding your brand. Do you have an effective, efficient plan in place to address these concerns appropriately? Do you know the difference between smart actions and potentially damaging ones?
A thorough understanding of the most advantageous steps to take in terms of safeguarding and rebuilding your brand after a food recall can save your company immensely when its reputation is on the line. Following is a guided breakdown of do’s and don’ts for maintaining a positive relationship with your customers and keeping your brand out of harm’s way following the occurrence of a food recall.
DO: Address Crisis Management
As you take urgent steps to protect your brand in the wake of a recall, there should be a concurrent effort to protect consumers and manage the acute portion of a recall crisis. Partner with a team of trained investigators, advisers and attorneys with relevant experience in food recall management. When a positive test result for contamination occurs, it’s up to the crisis management team to execute a proper plan.
They must implement steps to rapidly identify and remove any recalled product from the marketplace in order to ensure the health of the public, as well as set immediate actions in motion at the plant level to locate the source of the contamination and remediate the problem. Make sure your team has expertise in building robust recall/incident management programs for food and beverage related crises, including:
- Public health, medical and regulatory experience
- Ability to communicate complex issues
- Effective legal, financial and reputational solutions to help minimize damage during a crisis
DON’T: Act Without Knowing the Facts
It’s never a good idea to make snap decisions or take brand actions without getting all the facts and knowing the whole picture. Be fully apprised on the details surrounding the recall, as well as your legal and compliance obligations.
Recalls are designated into classifications based on public health risk. You should understand the classifications and operate under this system as you issue notifications and develop your brand recovery strategy. Accurate and well-documented information is crucial. It will enable you to take the best courses of action, communicate in the most credible way and recover your brand most effectively.
DO: Break Your Own News
Unfortunately for the food industry, stories exposing scandals are a proven way to catch the public’s eye. Therefore, any news of a recall receives immediate and aggressive media coverage from both traditional and social media platforms. In the event of a recall, publicity is inevitable — and it’s an expense that spans every aspect from public relations management to eroded sales.
Communication with the public should be a high priority. It’s better to release information on your own terms than to let news outlets speculate about the incident and cause greater damage to your brand. Take advantage of press releases and other forms of notification to get the full, fact-based information out there right away. This communication tactic is much more likely to preserve your integrity as a brand.
DON’T: Try to Conceal Information
We’ve seen many misguided companies try to cover up issues with falsehoods or deny a lack of transparency in the past. Yet, neither of those approaches is suitable or best for meeting compliance requirements, protecting your consumers or safeguarding your brand. In order to address recall implications effectively and nurture consumer trust, the best policy is to be forthright and honest.
Be sure to keep careful records of everything your company does and send status updates to the appropriate government agencies. In addition, develop candid, helpful notifications to necessary stakeholders, including regulatory agencies, customers, distribution centers and consumers.
DO: Offer a Clear Resolution
From press releases to consumer notification letters, it will be important to ensure your recall is being communicated appropriately. An announcement that scales into a larger statement is helpful to end consumers.
In your communications with the public, outline your plan of action and provide explicit information on how retailers and consumers should respond. Detail how you’ll collect and eliminate the returned food, as well as the steps the public should take to ensure their health and redeem any compensation.
DON’T: Ignore Social Media
In a recall crisis, social media can be both an advantage and an impediment. On the one hand, it’s a great way to get important messages out to the public regarding recall procedures and updates. On the other, it’s an easy way for customers to air grievances and negative experiences. When this happens, it can be very difficult to repair your brand.
The best way to approach social media during and after a recall is to be highly active. Monitor your own and outside channels, and proactively respond to the communication being shared. Use these outlets as way to deliver straightforward, helpful information and to address emerging concerns directly, before they spiral into more complex brand problems.
By dedicating the proper resources to your social media effort and taking a hands-on approach, you’ll be in a much better position to restore trust in your products, minimize call volumes and lessen any lasting effects on your overall brand image.
DO: Be Patient
It may take some time for your brand to bounce back and make a full recovery. Meanwhile, you could experience some dips in profitability. The important thing is to stay the course and be patient. If your company is relying on a strong recall recovery plan and following these fundamental tips, you’re poised to reap long-term benefits from your efforts.
DON’T: Underestimate the Importance of Prevention
You don’t want to relive the same mistakes and outcomes of a food recall. In the course of recovering your brand from any damaging consequences, it’s vital to take every precaution to prevent a reoccurrence. You’ll want to make necessary improvements to current food safety processes and standardize best practices that help preclude future brand-injuring recalls.
For step-by-step advice on how to prevent another recall, as well as additional guidance on protecting your brand, be sure to access your free Food Recall Recovery Kit today.