Crisis Management – Cameron Grant Responds
Cameron Grant, Partner, 3x1The initial scenario suggests that there is some form of epidemic with the children of employees of company X. There is a strong indication that this could be linked to the potential consumption of product Y although there is no definite evidence confirmed at present. No cases have been identified beyond company X with consumers and the product has been on sale to the public for one month.
As such, the company cannot afford to damage its reputation by continuing to produce and distribute this product until a full review is completed and product Y declared free, or otherwise, from contamination. Even if the epidemic turns out to be unrelated to product Y or company X it must act on the evidence to hand to protect its reputation. If a link is proven and more cases are confirmed, by not acting immediately the company would be totally exposed for not acting on the knowledge it had available. There are no second chances with the media.
The MD should:
Stop production of product Y immediately. Quickly establish the facts and assemble a crisis team with a trained press spokesperson to avoid any speculation at this stage. Create a single point of contact for media and make the most appropriate spokesperson available for comment.
Identify all target audiences – who’s affected, who needs to know? Contact the health authorities to assess whether the 18 cases are linked and identify the early symptoms. Inform staff of situation and offer all employees free health checks for them and their children/families.
Issue a statement with key messages immediately to all media and news agencies, demonstrating concern and caring attitude. Use support advertising in mainstream press recalling product Y as a precaution, indicating location of potential outlets. Provide an 0800 number for any concerned members of the public to contact and provide a 24-hour-a-day manned helpdesk and customer hotline. All other products that could potentially have been contaminated in the production process should be withdrawn until a health and safety review can be completed. The Health & Safety Executive should be invited to take part in the review process. The police should be contacted regarding the previous fears expressed by employee regarding contamination. Hold a briefing for all employees outlining the current situation. Commission independent research to analyse product Y for future reference. Make a personal visit to children in hospital. Keep all communication simple and easy to comprehend.
The MD should not:
Remain on holiday. Speculate. Underestimate the potential damage this could have to the company. Admit any liability at this stage. Refuse to comment. Continue to produce and market product Y. Continue to pursue US sales
Like any other company manufacturing products, especially a food company, company X should have had a crisis plan in place.
Training should regularly take place; a manual should outline appropriate actions and all spokespeople should be media trained.