Menu Foods, a Canadian pet food manufacturer, distributes dog and cat food sold under Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger and other store brands. Last Friday it recalled 60 million containers of wet pet food Friday after reports of kidney failure and deaths.
In an attempt to calm fears and answer frantic questions, Menu Foods has set up a website and toll-free number for consumers to get answers to their questions. However, the website has minimal information and according to some pet owners, conflicting information. As for the toll-free line, it is constantly busy. From a marketing and public relations point of view, Menu Foods is leaving many pet owners in the dark.
Leaving your customers in the dark will only lead to fear and misinformation. When the lights come back on, you may only be left with a “trust account” that is overdrawn.
In case you find your company in a crisis, this may is a good time to go over the 10 steps in crisis communications:
- Be prepared – Have a crisis plan before the crisis. Identify possible courses of action, a spokesperson and communication avenues.
- Act fast – Gather information quickly and spread it to as many consumers as possible.
- Be proactive and not reactive – Deliver the bad news yourself. Don’t let others be the first to discover the bad news. Take responsibility and start the communications process.
- Make yourself available to consumers – Now is not the time to hide. Have as many communication avenues available to consumers as possible. Keep these avenues well maintained and give as much information as possible.
- What’s next – Tell the public the next steps that will be taken during the crisis.
- Tell the truth – Covering the truth will only severely compound the problem.
- Show compassion to those involved – In order of effectiveness, this is best done in person, by telephone, and lastly by written word (web site, press release, etc.).
- Put people ahead of profits – This is not a time to think of profits.
- Follow-up – After the crisis, tell the public how you will prevent the crisis from happening again in the future.
- Turn crises into opportunities – Seek out any silver linings.