Ready for a recall? The 7 principles of crisis comms

It might not seem the most likely category of consumer goods to consistently top product recall records, particularly in the wake of high profile food scandals and criminal activity in the food supply chain in the last two years, but it would be a mistake for the outdoor sector to think horsegate couldn’t happen to you.crisis

In fact the primary recalled Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) product category for more than half of the last two decades, has been sporting goods, including recreational equipment. In 2014, this category accounted for 22% of all CPSC recalls*.

It’s a broad category of course – the types of products covered include everything from bikes and boots to bats and bows – and this goes some way to explaining the trend. Yet the fact remains that recalls can cause media and consumer panic and every one of these product recalls will have incurred a financial cost for the brand in question and potentially impacted significantly upon its reputation and customer relationships.

To further complicate matters, as supply chains become more complex, so the recall process becomes equally complex – this is particularly evident in global supply chains where differing recall mandates exist for some or all of the countries in question.

For the unprepared, a recall can be a daunting and damaging experience and will fall firmly into the first of two types of crises: uncontrolled (also including fire, employee injury and deaths) and controlled (including layoffs, closures, major product changes). Both require a plan.

Decide who will do what in each scenario and who will talk to the media. Assign authority and responsibility ahead of time. Build the crisis response team, media train the appropriate people, prepare draft statements and tweets for different situations and make sure you have a crisis run through. Don’t forget to review the plan at least every six months, as possible scenarios change all the time.

Just as the recall process has become more complex, similarly, in a digital age, crisis communications has become more challenging in its delivery. However, the basic principles remain as true as they ever were:

1. Take the initiative
2. Be open, be honest and be human
3. Be careful and consistent with your information
4. Personalise communication towards all your target groups
5. Have a clear communications goal in mind
6. Don’t forget internal communications
7. Indicate the right frame of reference
8. Find allies to support you.

* Stericycle ExpertSolutions – The top 4 most recalled consumer product categories