Visibility Vulnerability – One Bad Apple Can Spoil the Whole Bunch

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I learned of a food company for the first time last week because they apologized for a current product recall, and in issuing the apology, reminded me (someone who had never heard of them), that they had let me down in the past. Reminded me of a potential suitor I didn’t date.

Let me explain:

gogosqueez recallA packaged applesauce maker came under fire on social media last week, as parents took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about “black, foreign” substances in their children’s GoGoSqueez applesauce snacks.

The company issued a statement that reads, in part:

“Many of you know that last year we had a recall for a different reason, and as a result, we understand you may be losing patience with us. We have worked hard to earn your trust, and we are taking action to make sure we continue to deserve it.”

Read the entire statement here:

In reading the entire statement, it does truly convey a sincere desire to be a high-quality food supplier, however the proof is in the pudding – or in this case the applesauce – as the company brings to the attention of persons who may be unfamiliar with them that they had an issue last year. Why? GoGoGuilt?

It turns out the issues are very different in nature too. Why lump everything together?

“Stuff” happens; it’s how you deal with the “stuff” that lets buyers, customers and consumers, vendors, partners, employees and others know if you, as a company, are mature enough to handle things when “stuff” goes haywire.

To Press or Not to Press

There is a difference between PR Communication and Crisis Communication. In a 2014 issue, GoGoSqueez was using social media – specifically Facebook – to do what social media does – engage with people, promote their Brand,  be “social” with their more than 620,000 fans.  However, as soon as a consumer used social media to engage by way of complaint, two-way communication ended; a post that included an image reporting an issue was deleted and the company went silent for eleven days. They did ultimately update their community, and apologized for the deleted post. Mistakes happen when crisis communication is created on-the-fly (See point 1. below).

When communication is designed only for promotion and when those using communication tools are trained only in one type of communication, panic or freezing when crisis communication is required is predictable.

How do we respond?  Who do we ask? Who knows about this? Can we ignore it and hope it goes away?

A pause for review is understandable; the image could have been doctored, could have been posted maliciously, research was necessary, etc. Deleting the post and image with no outreach however – in this instance – doesn’t (and didn’t) work and created a louder and more active response and outcry from the brand’s consumer community and media.

A reply to the original poster requesting a private message with phone number (and leaving that message visible for 6 -24 hours or so), is appropriate: “We sincerely appreciate you alerting us to an issue.  Please private message this account your phone number with a convenient time to call and we will make it a priority to speak with you today. We will archive your original message as part of our internal investigation, and will continue to make GoGoSqueez the number one treat in your child’s lunchbox…”

And then pick up the phone, make that call and make a friend.

More important in these public issues, there has been no mention in community updates or immediate subsequent messages, of the continuing good works of the company.  Right now, as of this writing, the last post on the GoGoSqueez Facebook page is about the most recent recall – ten days ago. What a great time to talk about the great works of the company such as their TerraCycle program or their ongoing photo contest.  How about a recipe contest?  I get the feel from their website and CEO message that they really do care, and do a good job of consumer follow up, but they need to remember to continue to communicate with those who are unaffected by the recall. And for goodness sake GoGoSqueez, update the Newsroom page on the official website – your Press Release for the Goodness on the Go Campaign is buried below the fold – it appears as if 2014 is the most recent news.  If thousands of new eyes are going to be visiting your website – even if for a reason you did not anticipate – give them some fresh, positive content!

Crisis Communication key pointI asked our President, Jim Satterfield, for his point of view and he shares two key points:

1: Product recall and communications should not be developed on-the-fly

As products are developed, planning for a recall should be concurrently developed. Is this a product that is eaten? Is this a product that has physical safety exposure? How are children exposed to this product? What is the intelligence monitoring program for this product?

2: How does the communication instill or restore Trust?

The information provided confirms that internal QA/QC failed; why should consumers trust them going forward? The quote from this company informed potential users of a history of problems. Adding insult to injury, their FAQs resource page creates more questions than it answers. For example, there is a suggestion that someone who has consumed the possibly tainted product visit their doctor if they are concerned. Is the company paying for the doctor visit?

Communication has Consequence

Before you prepare any communication – in good times or crisis – ask “Why?”  Why are we creating this message? Is it necessary now? Do we know enough to provide relevant information? Are we communicating because we think we have to? Are we increasing our Visibility Vulnerability by communicating prematurely and poorly?

Remember, don’t let your first response become the second crisis. One bad apple actually can spoil the whole bunch…but it doesn’t mean you have to kill the tree.

Last, my apologies to anyone who now has the Osmond Brothers singing in their head.

Give us a call, we can help (not with the stuck song thing though, you’re on your own for that).

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