By Oster & Associates president Bev Oster
The saying goes that it’s better to have and not need something than need and not have it. When it comes to business, especially the produce business, having a detailed crisis communications plan ready to implement at any time is an absolute necessity.
Not convinced? Remember the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak in the United States that recently dominated the news headlines for weeks. There were 197 cases reported across 35 states with 89 people being hospitalized and five fatalities occurred. Foodborne illness is a real scenario that growers, distributors and sellers must all be prepared to address. Consumers depend on the safe quality of food products that they eat and drink on a daily basis. Being in the produce industry means being prepared…just in case.
How about port officials in Spain finding 8,740 kilos of cocaine hidden among 1,080 boxes of bananas in what was supposed to be an ordinary shipping container arriving from Ecuador? It was a less likely occurrence than a health outbreak, but still one that happened in April.
We can’t necessarily plan for things to happen the way we would like them to, and that’s why having a communications plan in place to handle crises (of all sizes) is valuable to a business, its brand and its employees or affiliates.
Here are few things to consider as you determine if your company is truly ready to quickly and strongly respond to a crisis.
- Internal communication – Make sure that you have an established line of communication with designated company personnel in assessing the situation to immediately enact responses per the crisis communication plan in place.
- External communication – Does the message that your company will be distributing to the general public clearly spell out what has happened and what is being done to solve the problem(s)? Be prepared for an immediate public response, good or bad, through media and social media. Take steps to monitor and respond to all inquiries in a very timely manner as the situation dictates.
- Execution of the plan – Solely reacting off-the-cuff or simply hoping you get it right is foolish and extremely risky for a wide range of reasons. Review your plan every so often to keep it top of mind. This will be a tremendous help to your company and your customers if or when enacting your company’s crisis communications plan.
- Evaluation of the plan – How successful was the plan? In most instances, it will be difficult to accurately evaluate how things will go until a crisis arises. Looking at things with a critical eye will reinforce areas where your company performed well in a crisis and give you room for improvement in others. This is the best time to take a step back and judge the overall performance under pressure. The findings here will better prepare your company with its planning and allow you to improve.
- Adjustments for future – The recommendations that are implemented from the evaluation step will directly impact how your company makes adjustments. There is always room for improvement and the way a company prepares for both the expected and unexpected to happen is no exception.
There is no time like the present to put together a crisis communications plan if your company doesn’t already have one. If it does, then go ahead and review it to make sure that it meets the high standards which your company has set for the commodities it produces or services it provides. The time you spend getting things prepared now will save you a tremendous amount of time, money and potential heartache later on if you put it off. It’s definitely worth the effort to take care of your business today.