The importance of a good Crisis Communications Strategy


I received an email the other day from Tesco which was addressed from Phillip Clarke, Chief Executive at Tesco. The email subject line was ‘Food Concerns, Our Responsibility, Our Promise’. The email was a welcome example of how ‘PR should be done’.


The email was addressing the recent horse meat scandal that has affected Tesco and many other food retailers and supplier. Tesco have held their hands up and rather than hide and let it all blow over. They have decided to use it as an opportunity to engage with their customers and tell them what to expect. I can honestly say as a consumer, I feel more confident about shopping at Tesco for meat.

The email includes ‘what we are doing immediately’ and one of the things they are going to be launching is a dedicated website which will enable customers to see the progress they are making with their testing programme, and which products have been tested so you can be sure of where they are in the process.

I can not fault this approach. It is an exemplary way of turning around a situation that will be affecting consumer confidence and buying.

In stark contrast, Findus UK’s response has been extremely disappointing and slow following the discovery of horsemeat in their products, including some ‘beef’ lasagnas that were found to contain 100% horse.

Findus’ tactics seem to be to lay low and wait until it all blows over, which has and will continue to attract widespread criticism and low confidence from consumers.

Findus really need to take on board Tesco’s example of addressing the horse meat scandal that is likely to affect many more food retailers as each day it seems a new supermarket or food retailer is affected. The key to any crisis communications strategy is to engage with customers and other stakeholders, demonstrate concern and contrition, provide reassurances and begin to re-build public trust.

Tesco have set the standard, and one by which all Brands, Organisations and PR professionals should acknowledge.


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