Crisis PR Coach: Bravo Farms Cheese Recall

by coach

crisis PR challenges

Bravo Farms' cheese recall could be better with a few small changes

Food product recalls are a serious business. That’s why food producers, retailers and regulators must do everything possible to inform affected consumers. In the case of Traver,CA Bravo Farms’ gouda cheese recall, they haven’t gone quite far enough.

On November 8th, through the FDA, Bravo issued a voluntary recall of all Dutch Style Gouda brand cheese because it may be contaminated with E. coli. The product was sold in Costco stores in southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico as well as other retail stores in CA.

The related Costco news release says: “Based on current information, there is a preliminary link with the consumption of one of several cheeses offered for sampling and sale at the “cheese road show” that was held at Costco Warehouses between October 5 and November 1 in those states.” Unfortunately, 25 consumers are known to be infected to date.

Overall Assessment

As with other recent product recalls we’ve looked at, Good Earth Tea and Pictsweet Co, the companies make an effort to inform consumers but overall effectiveness is hampered by some missing elements, easily corrected.

The company’s FDA news release has the basics, including a picture of the product label from Bravo Farms, but to be more effective, here’s what else the news release needed:

  • A statement from a company spokesperson.
  • A media contact and phone number from the company. They should be available and easily accessible.
  • A statement of concern from a senior executive of the company would show sincere regret and be appropriate.
  • Extended hours for the 1-800 consumer help line would indicate further concern. People don’t always get sick or need product information during business hours (Pacific time).
  • A link to the company website.

Bravo Foods Website

When you go to the Bravo Farms website, you’ll find a very well-designed, attractive and appealing consumer site. Oddly, it contains no media information which would be a potential publicity and marketing asset.

To its credit, Bravo has a link on its Home Page to a very brief “Costco Recall Notice” which is actually a Bravo Farms’ statement that reads:

“First and foremost to the people sickened in recent weeks, we are taking this very seriously and are deeply saddened. We’ve never chosen profits over our customers, and will continue to make decisions based on your safety not the safety of the company. We are working to be certain our cheeses are completely safe, and to identify the cause of this tragedy. We pray that God gives us wisdom to make the best decisions on locating the source, and to also keep anyone else from becoming ill.”

Think how much more positive and impactful this message would be if delivered by the owner of Bravo Farms? That said, it is sincere. It then links to Costco’s news release above.

The Bravo Farms website would be immensely improved with even a basic online “newsroom.” It does have two logos available, but no media contact info, company details or press info that could provide media coverage for such an attractive operation just north of Los Angeles.

If you’re interested, more online newsroom tips are available in our recent post Does Your Online Newsroom Deliver the News?

Companies Need to Do Better in a Crisis

Lots of work to do if they want to do things better. Some to-dos are bigger, some are smaller improvements. All in all, Bravo Farms isn’t too far away from doing things right, especially if they add a newsroom. Like many small companies and retailers, they may not have been fully prepared to handle such a crisis at the speed required.

The trick going forward is to do everything they can to restore their company reputation and reestablish product quality in the minds of consumers. Post-crisis actions are always the biggest challenge and we wish them well.

We’ve got lots more crisis planning and crisis management tips and resources in the PR Library. Please share your thoughts below on how Bravo Farms handled things or other ideas on what they could do better in the future. Also, let us know how you’re enjoying our Crisis PR Coach series.

With holiday season approaching, 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.

Author:  Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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Visual: Bravo Farms FDA release

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