Today It's Romaine. Tomorrow It Could be Your Organization.

Are You Prepared for a Crisis or Threat?

The latest breakout of e coli infections has thrown romaine farmers and packers into a panic. At the same time, it has thrown restaurateurs, foodservice providers and consumers away from the product. Whether you’re a commodity board, food company, restaurateur, farmer or any other company selling food, you need to be prepared in the event of a crisis so it’s less likely to shut down your business.

And it makes us want to help food companies prepare for a wide range of crises that might happen.

In the most recent food safety scare, the message is coming from the Centers for Disease Control and very factual and controlled. At least the messages directly from the CDC are factual and controlled using a page on its website as the central control area. At the same time, like the game of telephone, the message was adjusted by media outlets wanting to get “clicks” or viewers.

A friend is traveling and often out of wireless service areas. I knew she was in Arizona and eats a lot of salad. She had just left the grocery when she got my message about romaine…and purchased romaine. Thankfully, she knew where her romaine was from and went to the Taylor Farm website where their message was front and center along with one from the Produce Marketing Association.

Because of our society's quick access to news and information, a threat or full-blown crisis (real or fake) can happen at any time. Organizations and brands can be affected by something as simple as a bad review, social media post or actions of a single employee (think Starbucks in Philadelphia). Lack of preparation, including a plan to identify any potential threats, can quickly turn an initial incident turn into a major crisis.

Ready to get started? Here are a few things you’ll need:

  • Crisis team to make the decisions

  • System for monitoring social and traditional media

  • A notification system when something happens

  • A plan for how you will address the issue

  • Sample statements for possible crises

Of course, food safety is just one example of the types of threats your company could face. It’s important to take a look at other scenarios and plan accordingly so you don’t lose important hours - - or even minutes - - before responding. Scenarios that could happen anywhere include:

  • Food safety

  • Natural disaster

  • Legal or financial difficulties – investigations, regulations or law enforcement activity

  • Criminal activity – e.g., bombs, hacking or even kidnapping

  • Customer accident/illness/death

  • Employee incidents – everything from harassment to embezzlement or ethical lapses

  • High profile events like management changes, special interest group boycotts or protests

Again, the biggest reason planning for a food industry crisis should be on your “to do” list is the speed with which what seem like small incidents can happen and explode. When a threat is identified, it’s important that the team works efficiently. If you have systems in place, it will be easier.

We’re not going to lie, though.

Each crisis is different and rarely is easier than the last one. And, we understand you’d rather manage your business than having to deal with threats or a full blow crisis. Planning for a food industry crises is one of the first steps in making sure your first crisis won’t be the end of your business.

We recognize this post may have you feeling a bit overwhelmed. Our food public relations team is ready to provide assistance by planning and preparing for the inevitable. Contact me today for assistance today so we can help you build a brand and your presence in your community ahead of your next crisis.

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The Barber Group

Gig Harbor, Washington


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