Horsemeat Crisis Still Trampling Reputations

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    Claiming ignorance is not good crisis management

    As a consumer, how much confidence would you lose in a company if they couldn’t tell you where they picked up 50,000 tons of meat? The Dutch suppliers being questioned in the latest horsemeat development may as well be saying, “hey, we’re either lying to you or horribly incompetent, your call!”

    In following quote, from a NY Times article, Stephen Castle details the return of a situation that the European meat industry surely wishes would go away for good:

    After disappearing briefly from public view, the scandal over horse meat sold as beef re-emerged on Wednesday with an alert over 50,000 tons of meat sold across Europe and an earlier recall of a product in Britain containing a veterinary drug banned from the human food chain.

    The Dutch food safety authority said it was trying to trace meat sold to 130 companies in the Netherlands and 370 in 15 other countries, including France, Germany and Spain. The Dutch suppliers of the meat were unable to say where the 50,000 tons in question originated, said Tjitte Mastenbroek, spokesman for the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

    While there was much talk of simplifying the supply chain and keeping better track of exactly where shipments of meat come from, and go to, the wheels of big business move slowly, and there has been little done in that regard as a result of either apathy, or, for some, perhaps the thought that the more complicated things are, the harder it is for anyone to take the blame.

    The reality is that when the industry has to do major public crisis management for meat mix-ups over, and over, and over again, the reputation of every organization involved is at risk. The way to ensure that your reputation stays strong is to embrace Crisis Management 101, increasing transparency in operations and reaching out to consumers to share as much information as possible. Of course, you can always try the old ostrich approach, but while your head’s buried in the sand, remember what’s sticking straight up in the air.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]