Over the past few decades, there’s been a lot of talk about an impending food crisis – a shortage. But in public relations, preparing for a food crisis speaks more specifically to preparing for crisis communications within the food industry. Did someone become sick or – even worse – die after eating your product, or from your establishment? This is a serious food crisis; one usually followed by lawsuits and settlements.
Not only do these crises wreak havoc on a company’s expenditures and budget, but it also affects the most valuable part of an establishment – the reputation. The biggest problem a lot of brands have in the food industry is an overwhelming belief that doing “everything right,” or just being a small fry, protects them from a bad reputation. This couldn’t be less true.
Prepare for crises, no matter your size, even if you’ve enjoyed decades with a spotless record.
No one wants to show transparency when things go bad – whether in business or our personal lives. Yet, to move forward and regain trust, this is necessary. When crisis strikes, businesses need to admit what they don’t know, acknowledge the facts of the situation they are familiar with, and then explain what they plan to do to obtain more information and resolve the problem.
Acknowledging the issue goes a long way towards resolving problems, and ending speculation that may otherwise continue to the detriment of the brand.
Prioritize Customers and the Public
When people start pointing fingers, sending threats, and filing lawsuits, thinking of other people can seem impossible. However, it’s exactly what a brand needs to do. This not only shows an ability to empathize but the capacity to focus on more than just the bottom line. Companies need to do this to maintain great public relations, and to make people feel as though their concerns are heard and taken into consideration.
Crafting Holding Statements
Often overrated in public relations, every brand should maintain a holding statement for crises, especially if there’s no full-time PR specialist on board. This helps buy time to formulate a proper PR strategy while holding the media and the public at bay. Holding statements usually acknowledge the incident, and reassure the public.
For instance, after a Burger King employee verbally attacked a customer on camera, Burger King released the following statement:
We are aware of the video posted on Facebook. Guest satisfaction and service are of the highest priority to everyone at BURGER KING restaurants. The franchisee that owns and operates this restaurant has terminated the employee involved and has reached out to the guest directly.
Crises in any industry pose serious problems, but perhaps more so in the food industry than others. Why? Because people know the dangers of driving a car or taking certain medications but few people expect to become seriously affected by eating at their favorite fast-food restaurant or visiting a large franchise.
As a result, re-establishing this trust can prove more difficult than in other industries. To combat this problem, brands in the food industry should hold themselves to the highest standards, while preparing a PR plan for the absolute worse outcomes, just in case.