How To Manage a Food Public Relations Crisis

By J.P. Lincoln


Working in the food business for as long as we have, it is almost impossible to be insulated from the panic that ensues from product recalls salmonella scares, Swedish horse meatballs, or hot coffee that is just too…well, hot. Learn how to manage a food public relations crisis using these four tips:

Don’t panic.

Don’t react solely based on fear. Removing product from the shelves even though you know the ingredients you used are safe, doesn’t need to happen. Make sure you are thinking through your next steps clearly and surround yourself with the right people who have experience in crisis communications.

Sometimes the best course of action is to wait.

Before acting make sure you have all of the most up-to-date information. Acting rashly before you have all of the facts on the ground is almost always a mistake you’ll pay for later.

Be transparent and proactive.

Burying your head isn’t always the best remedy when a crisis comes along. When you want to reassure customers (and the media) that you are taking steps to resolve the issue, take control of the conversation. For example, create a video with the head of your company addressing the scare and post on your Website homepage and social media channels. The good will and proactive nature of this gesture will be well received by your customers and retailers because it addressed the issue head on.

Don’t rule out simple.

Every crisis has a solution. More often than not, a simple one. One of the best I’ve seen is the response by a natural foods store caught mislabeling cantaloupes grown in Mexico as Californian. The response? “It was an honest mistake and we’re sorry.” Sometimes, that’s all you need to take responsibility and avert a crisis.

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