Food Marketing Institute and Oliver Wyman, Boardroom, March 2016

Anticipated or not, when a crisis strikes a company, CEOs must be prepared to respond immediately in order to lead their organizations through a potentially catastrophic event. Within the last 5 years alone, the food industry has been at risk for a wide spectrum of crises, including E. coli and norovirus outbreaks in fresh food, cybercrime such as high-tech SQL injection attacks aimed to steal customer data, natural disasters, and traditional and social media public relations disasters. While there are certainly aspects of a crisis response that can be planned in advance, each incident inevitably requires a unique approach.

In many crisis situations, the reputation of a company hangs in the balance and can literally vanish overnight if the crisis is not addressed immediately and correctly. The expansion of social media in recent years has exacerbated this trend, bringing widespread, factually incorrect, and damaging attention to issues such “pink slime” and the presence of horse meat in beef products. These issues have gone viral and, in some cases, pushed companies to the brink of bankruptcy. Interestingly, reputation is rarely the top priority identified by a crisis incident response team. However, given how quickly exaggerations and mistruths spread, reputation does need to remain top-of-mind for every executive in a crisis. […read more]