Crisis Management – Does Your Company’s Plan Include Social Media?

Nothing can rock a company quite like a crisis. It doesn’t matter whether your company is new or established. If you encounter a crisis, you need to be prepared to deal with it head on. That means you need to have a plan in place and that plan needs to include social media.

I’d like to share with you how a major pet food company has recently dealt with their own crisis because they’ve handled the situation quite well. I think we can all learn from how they reacted to the crisis and how they have managed it from its onset to the time of this writing.

I’m talking about Natura Pet and the recent pet food recall they’ve experienced. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the recall by now. I’m also sure that we can all agree that a recall like this qualifies as a crisis for any pet food company.

What I would like to discuss today is how Natura responded to the recall. We’re not going to talk about the quality of Natura’s foods or the impact that their purchase by P&G has made on the company. Those subjects are far off topic although I will say briefly that I believe that Natura manufactures a line of quality pet food and this recall has not changed my mind about that fact.

So, how did Natura respond to the recall? What did they do right and what did they do wrong?

Their first response was to issue a public release in which they expressed concern and regret about the recall. They were open, honest, and transparent about what was happening. That was a good move on their part. They also provided a phone number for concerned pet owners as well as contact information through their website. They responded proactively to the situation but they didn’t stop there.

Their next step was to publish the release on all of their social media outlets (Facebook and Twitter). Not only did they post the release, they responded personally to each inquiry about the recall and each concern about the recalled product posted on those channels. Sometimes that response was simply notifying the customer that the food in question was not on the recall list. Sometimes it was responding to concerns about potential illness related to the recalled product. In other instances, it involved collecting a phone number from the customer so that the customer service department could contact the customer. Understandably, the phone lines were often busy and social media provided another outlet for concerned pet parents to contact the company.

What Natura did not do was try to sweep the recall under a rug or ignore its existence. They did not make light of the recall itself or of their customer’s concerns in light of the recall.

What’s the lesson to be learned here? Natura certainly would be happier if this recall had never happened. But unfortunately sometimes these types of episodes are beyond a company’s control. Natura had the foresight to realize that a crisis like this could affect them and they had a plan in place to handle it. They handled the recall in a caring and sensitive manner, realizing that some customers would be angry but many would simply be scared. They knew what types of inquiries to expect. They knew exactly who would respond to the inquiries and how the inquiries would be handled. Just as important, they knew where to direct their efforts. They already had existing social media channels where they were regularly and positively interacting with their customers. Their customers knew to turn to these channels for information and Natura was there for them when they did so.

What effect will this recall have Natura’s business in the long term? I don’t know. I do know that Natura has done all they can to respond to their customers and I think they’ve done a good job under difficult circumstances.

Your business may not be a pet food company. Your model may be much different from that of Natura Pet. But any business has the potential to encounter a crisis of one type or another. Bad media can make or break a company, especially a small business or a new business. Being ready and able to respond to such a crisis is essential. Your business cannot afford to be without a crisis management strategy.

So, what is your plan? How would you handle a crisis in your business? Does your staff know how to respond to phone inquiries? Or media inquiries? Do you have a person on your staff that will handle social media outreach and the resulting questions and inquiries? Do you have a policy in place that dictates who will be responsible for these duties and how they will be handled? If not, you should. And you should implement it immediately, before a crisis occurs. Social media is a valuable part of such a plan. If you’re not talking about the crisis online with our clients and/or customers, I guarantee someone else will be. And that someone will not have your best interests at heart.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM

Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

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