Sometimes crises bring out the best in people. Even if not always immediately.
When faced with threats to safety, you must reaffirm that protecting the public is your foremost commitment. Whether it’s consumers, donors, investors, or children at summer camps or schools.
It’s a page out of the playbook that Johnson & Johnson used to establish the gold standard with its massive and voluntary Tylenol recall in the 1980s. (Ironically, J&J subsequently ignored that lesson and stumbled repeatedly with more recent drug-related issues.)
Chipotle Mexican Grill is the latest. After a string of food-contamination problems, the popular restaurant chain published a heartfelt apology from its founder Steve Ells on its website and in full-page newspaper ads. It promised to set up extensive and expensive controls on its “field-to-fork” supply chain to ensure quality. What they needed to do, but failed was to manage expectations. They needed to let the public know that there are no overnight fixes – it will take time.
“The fact that anyone has become ill eating at Chipotle is completely unacceptable to me and I am deeply sorry,” he wrote. “…We need to do better, much better.”
Just one day earlier, Los Angeles Unified shut down the nation’s second-largest school system because of a terrorism threat that subsequently turned out to be a hoax. Defending the decision as an abundance of caution, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said, “I am not taking the chance to bring any child into any part of the building until it is safe.”
Of course, there are those who missed that memo and denied that problems existed until they no longer could. Think Blue Bell Creameries, which insisted for years that contamination at its manufacturing plants was limited. Or Takata, which was accused of knowing for years that its airbag-inflating devices could explode.
The lesson: When safety is at risk, there is no road too far. The public rewards you if you take it and punishes you if you don’t.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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