The costs associated with this kind of crisis include recall costs, revenue loss, and legal costs for damage to health or life and regulatory fines. Ultimately, complications in any supply chain impact a brand’s reputation and require time and investment to rebuild trust among customers, partners, and the general public.
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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2014
Several examples of food crises and the role social media played throughout illustrate the importance of both a proactive food defense plan and proactive social media practices. The 2013 horsemeat crisis in particular supports the need to participate in social media on an ongoing basis, not just when crisis hits. This notion was confirmed with a recent incident that occurred with the U.S. yogurt company, Chobani. The brand monitors social media proactively and recently noticed a number of people commenting on its social networks that the yogurt was fizzy and the fruit seemed off. Chobani’s social media team replied to consumers on the brand’s social networks, saying they would look into the issue. As part of this investigation, the brand found a production room had experienced some issues that were previously unknown to the company, so Chobani alerted its retailers and took back batches of the yogurt. In this instance, Chobani was able to preempt the crisis—to a certain degree—by listening to consumers and reacting quickly, investigating the situation, keeping consumers in the loop, and then engaging with the distribution channel and impacting the production cycle. The organization did ultimately receive criticism on social media over the issue and the way the company handled the issue—primarily because the scale and speed of the conversation was difficult to manage—however, this only further illustrates the need for proactive planning and preparation.
The 4Ps of Brand Resilience
When it comes to food crises compounded by global social networking, there are a number of steps a brand can follow to ensure that not only is it proactively establishing a strong social media presence, but also that it is ready to react quickly, with full support from employees.
Participate in Social Media Regularly. This means developing fans, friends, and followers; creating loyalty that can serve as resiliency during a crisis. Furthermore, a brand that is active in social media is more likely to learn quickly that it is being criticized than a brand that has no online presence at all. It’s important to also track major competitors and the industry on social networks. While one brand may not be the initial focus of the comments, its reputation can be damaged simply by association with the industry. Other helpful practices including tracking and engaging with new sources. Brands should consider using the associated handles of influential media members and the hashtags industry thought leaders use so responses appear within the conversation stream or searches being made. It’s also important to comment on posts and develop a rapport with other industry professionals on social networks.
Plan Organizational Responsibilities. Taking too much time to discuss what has to be done during a fast moving and escalating social media crisis is not recommended. It is much preferred to have the chain of command, approval process, and various scenarios reviewed, agreed upon, internally published, and understood in advance so the brand’s full team is ready to react when needed.
Pre-Audit Likely Issues and Prepare Responses. Have materials pre-prepared that can be easily edited to suit the specific situation, therefore saving time, rather than creating content during a crisis. While it is not always possible to be prepared for every eventuality, most brands should already know the likely areas which could result in negative comments. Have a range of scenarios prepared with plans for which subject matter experts can be called on.