Social Media – From Crisis till Management

In the recent past, social media has gained a huge pace and so did the social media outreach for various corporate and not for profit organizations. With the advent of advancements in social media campaigning and strategies to gauge the intended audience, the good and bad implications of the phenomenon, seem to be going hand in hand.

However, having devised a fool proof social media crisis management strategy could save the companies, both image and dollars. No matter the crisis happens in the real world or the cyber world, in this era of smart phones and internet, the news is followed, assessed and authenticated through the social media outlets.  Social media has surely singled out from the traditional media and other digital media avenues for news generation.

Being influential enough, social media posses a great strength to reach out the intended audience, for both making and breaking the organizational image. In relevance to this, several crises have been handled and addressed by large corporations through the mere use of social media tools, and running effective campaigns. However, some others still have not realized the significance of this medium, and so they seem to be at a loss – especially in saving their online report, after a major crisis.

One such case was the crisis that hit the image and reputation for XL foods in 2012. The company was found convict of inefficient and unhygienic handling of slaughtering process, which ended up in a massive E.coli contamination of around 1.3 million pounds of meat. Not only this, but this contamination also killed around 18 people, and subsequent taking over of the plant by Neilson Bros. This also resulted in 2000 employees to be laid off for a good 3 months period.

Following were some of the media posts made by cbc news to bash off XL Foods’ image:

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From August 23, 2012 till September 4, 2012, there were absolutely no communications from the company’s end. However, later on CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) took over the case investigations, and CFIA was mostly the responsive end during the entire fiasco.

Company’s first public statement was on air by October 4th   which said:

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“We take full responsibility for our plant operations, and the food it produces, which is consumed by Canadians from coast to coast. We are doing everything we can to take the lead in an enhanced, comprehensive food safety program at our plant.

Following were some of the mistakes by XL Foods, which could have been addressed efficiently while adopting the suggested social media strategies:

  • XL Foods tried to limit exposure to media and handled a very public matter privately – Social media should have been given the prime importance to tackle the very sensitive issue and every outlet should have been utilized strategically for affective reputation management. The apology should have been posted over Twitter and Facebook. And this massage could have been kept consistent for reposting and re-tweeting by company employees on their personal and professional networks.                                                   XL-Foods-inspectors
  • CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) spearheaded any sort of media communications instead of XL foods itself – XL Foods may have taken over the responsibility to apologize and eventually leading to consumer satisfaction through their social media outlets while posting relevant pictures, videos and podcasts for lab testing of the meet, visits of the monitoring teams and other updates through mediums as, Facebook, Pintrest and Google +; regarding the investigations  by CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service).
  • While the agriculture minister gave media statements, assuring the public not to open the XL food items in the market until found safe – XL Foods still remained silent over all media outlets (Both Social media and Digital Media). However, the clarifications could have been made over the social media regarding the ongoing investigative processes, while engaging into discussions with the consumers, and updating them on relevant measures taken to avoid any other mishap in the future.
  • Over 98 retailers affected by the XL foods recall, some of the major ones including Metro, food basics, kitchen table, IGA, Loblaws, Longos, No Frills, PC, Price Choppers, Sobey’s Safeway, Walmart, Value-Mart,  Zehrs, Costco – It was very important to engage into conversations for XL Foods with their stakeholders through social media and making the things clear to save image and uphold stakeholder relationships. For this purpose developing and upholding a regular blog would have been a good strategy, where company may have spoken about their soft image, and the best practices to cater their valued stakeholders in the past. As well as the future plans for the company to build up a stronger customer experience.
  • Consumers stopped buying XL Products and returned and or exchanged the pre -crisis merchandise back to the stores – A flow of regular tweets could have been channelized while answering to any concerns of consumers over social media and providing satisfactory comments. A good strategy would have been to post regular e. news releases over company’s website and sharing the links on social media outlets as Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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2 thoughts on “Social Media – From Crisis till Management

  1. This is great “classic” example of a company that did not have a crisis communications plan. Waiting months to make a public statement is inexcusable. I also know first hand, that the company, at least initially, was not interested in hiring a PR company to help manage this costly crisis.

  2. The first mistake that you pointed out in your post regarding this crisis was that the company did not issue a public apology over social media platforms (and waiting months to issue any public statement at all). It seems like that is the going trend in many of the crisis examples, in these class blogs, and one of the more common mistakes made in these instances in general. I think we can all agree that trying to sweep issues under the rug and ceasing to address them even when they turn into a full blown cirsis is the worst thing you can do!

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