• February 29, 2016

True or False: The Media Can Help You in a Food Crisis

The following post is written by SHS FoodThink team member Lathi deSilva.

True. Especially for those brands who have built relationships with the media before a crisis.

Too often, companies and brands either delay or shy away from being upfront about an issue in fear that they won’t be able to control a story.

With FoodThink research confirming that consumers rely on the media as their first source of information, food marketers are wise to embrace working with the media.Interview

While a company can’t control the media during a crisis, they can manage the message, in turn helping to affect how both the media and the public perceive them.

Does managing the message sound easier said than done? First, there’s the legal team that you need to meet with to understand any sensitive issues. Simultaneously, you must get input from operations, sales or the experts who can speak to the technical nature of a potential issue. Perhaps there’s another layer of management that must approve all external messages.

Despite an approval process that might seem tough to navigate, it’s important to have an internal agreement in place as to how you will address a potential scare or issue. It’s been proven that
companies or brands that show they care, act with transparency, and are accessible and forthcoming during times of crisis can recover faster.

How to work with the media:

  1. Build relationships with media contacts who cover your industry. Resist the idea of only talking with the media when you have “good news” to share.
  2. Being available to comment or provide insights about industry trends can make you a valuable source. Even if you or your company/brand is not mentioned in the story.
  3. Put yourself in your consumers’ shoes. Consumers want to know the truth and how what you are doing will affect them and the people they love. When a food company exercises empathy for the consumer, they begin to understand the public’s concern for risk. Behaving as a concerned company can lead to quicker recovery for a brand that finds itself in a tough situation.
  4. Put yourself in the media’s shoes. Journalists are taught to get to the truth. The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics serves as a guide as they work to represent the public’s interests. Being familiar with their role will help you understand the motivations behind their questions.

Pause for a moment and think about what you will do if your brand experiences a potential food-production problem. Will you be ready if the media calls?

For more information on this topic, download SHS FoodThink’s white paper, “Allies in Unexpected Places.”