Practice. Many brands probably already have a crisis management plan prepared and run desktop exercises to ensure it is ready to activate. Include social media in this plan so it’s not brand new material to anyone on the team during a real crisis. Ensure all involved parties and periphery staff are trained on the plans and confident about executing it.
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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2014
Integrating Social Media into a Food Defense Plan
There’s a remarkable parallel between social media and food defense. In both processes, when a company reacts and responds quickly, the negative brand impact is lessened. This means companies must be both proactive and diligent.
4As of Food Defense
The 4As of food defense are the core components of a proactive food defense program that delivers intelligence to help food companies and suppliers implement the preventive actions necessary to protect their brand.
Assess. A proactive social media plan requires assessing the social media channels that your customers regularly utilize to ensure you are present in those channels if a crisis develops. Similarly, a proactive food defense plan begins by conducting a vulnerability assessment of all the critical control points where food is most vulnerable to adulteration.
Access. Once those vulnerability points are identified, food defense requires allowing only authorized staff access to these critical control points to minimize vulnerability. In social media, a company needs to participate in the identified channels to minimize vulnerability.
Alert. Continuous monitoring is equally important in both food defense and social media. In food defense, the whole supply chain needs to be monitored to alert appropriate individuals of intentional and unintentional instances of food adulteration anywhere along the chain, and respond quickly to minimize public health risks. In social media, all the relevant channels need to be continually monitored so a quick response is possible before a public firestorm brews.
Audit. Finally, in food defense it is important to regularly audit procedures to determine operational and regulatory compliance to best food defense practices and provide documentation of compliance to regulators. In social media, a company needs to regularly audit compliance to the appropriateness of all social media responses, to ensure they are consistent with the company’s image and brand promise.
How can a food and beverage brand protect itself against a social media firestorm when it comes to negative experiences? The trick is to build a social media brand defense plan that integrates into a proactive food defense plan. It is imperative that food and beverage manufacturers and distributors develop a proactive food defense program that delivers continuous and comprehensive control over the integrity of their supply chain to combat intentional food adulteration. Implementing preventive controls built on actionable intelligence to protect the food supply chain is much more effective than reacting to an adulteration event after it happens. The benefits of a strong food defense strategy that incorporates social media as an element to managing business and manufacturing processes can add value and defend the brand.
Best Practices During a Crisis
In the event a food crisis and consequent social media firestorm does occur, there are several best practices a brand can follow to work toward recovering quickly and having the smallest impact possible on all involved parties. It’s important to acknowledge the issue publicly and for the brand to state what it’s doing to research and resolve the issue. Brands should also apologize unreservedly—many crises are made far worse when organizations take issue with what is being said, or how it is being said, and get into a public argument on social media. By all means brands should apply their house rules (i.e. no profanity or personal insults) but they should not censor, edit, or remove comments that they simply see as unfair. One benefit of having friends, followers, and fans is that while they can be a harsh critic, they can also be a moderating voice to unfair and unjustified comments by the online “mob.”