If you read about the Diamond Pet Foods recall on the front page of the Jan. 2 issue of PR Week magazine, you’d walk away thinking the company did just about everything it could to deal with this crisis.
Its crisis plan included:
—A consumer alert and recall three days after a veterinarian in upstate New York alerted the company about treating three dogs with symptoms associated with liver disease. The dogs had eaten Diamond pet food. Seventy-six pets have died.
—Updates on its website.
—An onsite call center where calls were coming in at the rate of 1,500 a day. Even though many customers couldn’t get through, call center staffers say they returned every phone call.
—A news release issued December 22 that was picked up by major and local dailies, the Associated Press, ABC News and CNN’s website.
—Alerts to Diamonds’ distributors, who then contacted retailers.
An admirable job of managing a crisis? Hardly, says blogger BL Ochman in a post on Monday.
BL says it’s absolutely inexcusable that Diamond’s website is not up to date because the problem has been known and getting worse since mid-December.
“The Diamond Pet Food website is not up to date and its servers seem to be overloaded, causing the site to go down regularly,” she writes.
Today, they finally offered an update.
She also berates the company for not issuing a statement about the recall since December. Her suggestions:
—Apologize and assure the public that they’re on top of the problem
—Start a recall information blog
—Put its executives online to help consumers up to the minute
—Bring in veterinarians who can advise consumers whose dogs may have eaten the contaminated products
—Start a fund to cover the vet bills and death expenses of affected pets
If you’re the victim of a product recall, multi-million-dollar lawsuit, a nasty rumor that spreads through the Internet, or a major accident, crisis counselor Jonathan Bernstein says you must be ready for media interviews while also handling the crisis. When I interviewed him on “How to Keep the Media Wolves at Bay,” a teleseminar we did a few years ago, he suggested that key spokespeople always be braced for nasty questions from reporters. One way is to create a list of the worst questions you can think of, then craft answers to those questions. The reason for using a key spokesperson is so the management team can devote precious time to managing the crisis.