Think like a Boy Scout
A recall is every food company CEO's nightmare. Hopefully, you will never have to face one, but every company should be prepared. Communication is key -- before, during and after -- a recall, according to Janet Riley, sr. vice president, public affairs, American Meat Institute, who shared expert advice with attendees at last week's Worldwide Food Expo in Chicago. Here are the basic rules, along with some editorial comments. Before a recall Write a generic press release (have the template available at all times) Develop a media list Choose and train spokespeople (If you only have a spokesperson, he or she may be on vacation in the Himalayas when the recall is announced.) Identify vendors to support you such as PR Newswire, which distributes information to media. Pay your membership fee in advance as there is a 24 hour lag for new member information to be distributed. Set up a Consumer Hotline Have a drill Shoot some b-roll (video in Beta format with sound bites on food safety policies within your company) Choosing spokespeople Good communicators Knowledgeable If consumers become ill, your spokesperson must be a very senior person (preferably the CEO) Continually update media (one effective tool is CEO video streaming to consumers) During a recall Call your Association; don't go into bunker mode Contact the Government agency immediately. You only have 30 minutes to review its press release information for technical errors. Issue a press release, even if the government has already done so. The goal is one definitive release with all important information. Stay in touch with your contact at the government agency involved and keep it informed of your progress Contact vendors about removal of the product If it's a high profile (more than local) recall, provide updates to the media at regular intervals. Evaluate company response/refine processes Talk to your customers Maintain your written recall plan. Identify recall team, give each person a responsibility and update their contact information. Keep complete records (production, distribution and trace back). Make sure those records are available from home in case the recall hits over the weekend. Have a plan for disposing recovered product. Check your HAACP plan now. If the recall is for a certain ingredient, make certain you know if it was used in your other products. Above all, think like a Boy Scout and be prepared. The reputation of your brand depends on it.