Crisis Coach: Two Companies Get Recalls Right

by PR Coach

Let’s take a look today at two companies – Publix and Keebler – which both handled recent product recalls well. There are lots of examples of how not to handle a crisis, so it’s refreshing to see two companies that did it mostly right.

Keebler Doesn’t Fudge on its Recall

On January 27, 2011 Keebler recalled cartons of its Fudge Shoppe® Jumbo Fudge Sticks sold in convenience stores. The cartons contained individually wrapped Jumbo Peanut Butter Sticks, wrongly packaged in their fudge cookie cartons.

The risk was for consumers sensitive to peanuts who may have purchased the product thinking they were buying fudge not peanut butter cookies.

The FDA news release identified the product, its UPC code, the risk to consumers, where to get more information by 1-800 phone number and the company website.

The website home page featured a red “Alert” button and link to more product recall info. The link led to a simple, effective product FAQ page and brief news release.

The recall was adequately handled but would have been stronger with a personal statement from company expressing regret about the packaging mixup.

Keebler is a Kellogg’s company.

Publix Provides Clear, Cold Facts, Product Recall Information

Publix Super Markets is privately owned and operated by its 146,000 employees. 2009 sales were $24.3 billion and it has 1,033 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.

On January 28, 2011 Publix recalled its “Publix Premium Light Tiramisu Ice Cream, which may contain Publix Premium Coffee Almond Fudge Light Ice Cream, resulting in the presence of an undeclared almond allergen.”

In other words, those with sensitivity to almonds could have a potential life-threatening risk by eating the wrong ice cream.

The company’s FDA news release followed standard FDA format by identifying the product, the lot/UPC code, the markets where the product was sold, a 1-800 phone number for consumers, as well as product photos.

The company went further than most food recall news releases by including a quote from the company spokesperson, a direct phone number for media, a website link and more background on the company.

On reaching the website home page, a consumer or reporter saw a highly visible red “Recall Alert” button and link with product name. The link featured the news release, product photos and also included a link in Spanish.

What I liked was the company offered a reasonable explanation, clear directions to the consumer on what to do, and a reasonable apology from the company spokesperson. It didn’t try to hide or ignore the recall on its website, unlike the vast majority of recent food recalls I’ve examined.

All in all, quite well done by Publix and Keebler. Other companies, with product recalls on the FDA website every day, could learn from them. What did you think about their efforts?

I’ve written before about other companies that didn’t go the extra mile in their product recall communications. There are lots of reasons for inadequate communication including lack of knowledge, no PR skill, limited resources, the challenge of simply running their company day to day, fear of making a public mistake or losing customers and market share.

You can read six of my recent Crisis PR posts including:
Crisis Coach: This Product Recall Was Nuts

Crisis PR Coach: Bravo Farms Cheese Recall

PR Fail: ‘Cooks Source’ Stirs Up Crisis PR Broth

Crisis Coach: Good Earth Tea Recall Recovers
Crisis Coach: Marie Claire Stumbling Badly
Crisis Coach: Pictsweet Frozen Vegetable Recall

As always our PR Library is open 24 hours a day with more online crisis information and crisis management tips and resources.

If you’re looking for crisis communications or other public relations books for your favorite communicator, just drop into our PR Bookstore. We have more than 230 PR books to choose from and you can order 24 hours a day.

Author:  Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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