Every year, over 2,500 product recalls happen out in the U.S. Along with it, there are difficult communication challenges for companies. In short order, the public, regulatory agencies, and media attention can pile on top of a company, retailers go rogue, legal actions arise, and the survival of the institution is at stake.
Crafting a proper PR crisis management response keeps your company in operation long after the recall.
A successful product recall PR strategy should follow these rules:
Take responsibility. Public backlash occurs for two reasons: first the defectiveness of the product and second, how effectively the recall is communicated. Acknowledging defects and accepting responsibility communicates an effective recall.
Do not delay. Make the announcement as soon as a threat is confirmed. Time is of the essence. Control the messaging.
Be candid, contrite, concise and compassionate. The goal is to safeguard customer confidence in the brand. Be candid: give all the relevant facts about the recall including the extent and scope. Be open about dangers and communicate your commitment to ensuring consumers’ safety.
Be contrite: Own up to mistakes. Be concise: get the job done as fast as possible. Minimize public exposure to the defective products and avoid prolonging the recall’s brand damaging negativity. Be compassionate: express empathy with the victims while suggesting confidence and resolve. The trick is to do it without admitting legal liability.
Use every means of communication. Get the message out through every form of media. Reach every potentially exposed consumer to avoid individual harm, brand damage and legal suits. It is far better to over-communicate than to risk an important stakeholder missing the message.
Cooperate with other parties. Cooperate with the regulatory bodies involved and the media. The FDA actually acknowledges the success of a recall “depends on the cooperation of the industry.”
Be prepared. Don’t wait until a potential hazard comes your way. Winging it is not a crisis communication strategy.
Every recall is different from the next. Communications matters.