By Claire Amber Young

In food and drink PR, the importance of having a comprehensive crisis management plan in place cannot be too highly stressed.

When your brand produces the stuff of life, any indication that it can’t be trusted can be deadly.

We preach the importance of planning for the worst while hoping for the best to our food and beverage public relations clients.

Quite simply, you need to have a PR crisis plan in place in case you ever have to protect the ethos and the reputation of your brand, to retain the customers that you have, and to maintain the appeal of your product.

There are no commodities more important than food and drink. No one survives without them – but they can survive without a particular brand because people have such a range of choice these days.

Consumers' conficence

Consumers need to have confidence in what they are buying, and with something as essential as the substances that fuel them, they won’t take risks with their health.

People also want to feel good about the choices they make. As a consumer rather than a journalist-turned-PR advisor, it’s very disappointing if something adverse happens with a brand I like or I’m loyal to.

Consumers return to a brand time and again because they like and trust it. If something fundamental goes wrong for that brand – whether there are foreign objects in it or it somehow ends up with a swastika on its packaging, for example – that trust is lost.

What a crisis management PR plan does is put the policies and practices in place to be able to immediately protect a brand’s reputation and position in the marketplace. While much of food and drink PR is about enhancing a reputation or raising visibility, it has a huge role to play in protecting a brand in the tough times.

Brass-tacks PR crisis plan

So what is the bare minimum a PR crisis plan could consist of? Four key points:

Who will be writing the statement …

Where will they get their information …

Who will approve it before it goes to the media …

Who – if anyone – will speak on behalf of the company. (You’ll also have to consider who will deputise if that spokesperson is not available.)

MEDIA TRAINING

This feeds into another important part of the crisis management plan … media training. When a crisis is unfolding, there’s no time to train a spokesperson how to handle tough questioning or to bridge back to their answer when a reporter throws a curveball.

What you’ve got to do is be ready for the worst – using scenario-based training, role-play and the insider knowledge our team of former journalists have acquired – so that the spokesperson is equipped with the tactics to be able to maintain their cool and stick to the company line under pressure.

The crisis management plan is something that should be continually revisited – and not just because people move on or up, but because the media landscape and what people consider to be important evolve, just as food and beverage public relations strategies do over time.

For example, 15 years ago, no one could have predicted such a thing as a Twitterstorm. Social media’s immediacy and bolshiness is something that has had to be incorporated into a PR crisis plan.

ADAPT YOUR CRISIS MANAGEMENT PLAN

But who can predict what might come next? Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have gone from disruptors to the mainstream. Someone, somewhere will come up with something that shakes the system.

So look at your crisis management plan, see how the world, your industry and your brand has changed and adapt your strategy to suit.

In an ideal world, only training and updates will ever be required. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.

We are the food and drink marketing and PR experts. To find out how we can boost your brand, call 0800 612 9890.