Every little helps when crises hit supermarkets

The Tesco horsemeat saga has gripped the nation this week, leaving our biggest retailer stacking up apology adverts while de-stacking the burger shelves. 

Then, its customer care team posted an ill-judged late-night tweet on being ‘off to hit the hay’ – a tactic one assumes was intended to endear them. It simply gave the dying story a second hearing and forced Tesco – not the only offending retailer in this crisis - into the spotlight for the wrong reasons. 

This seems an apt story to kick off our first Friday PR tip. Update your crisis PR manual. Every company needs to be prepared for any crisis with an effective management strategy. Once a crisis hits, there is no thinking time in today’s 24/7 news environment. 

To protect hard-nurtured reputations, the trick is to audit as many of the communications pickles it can be imagined and stuff the crisis manual with statements, Q+As and plans of who says what and when. It’s less complex than it sounds as it all comes down to basic principles. One principle is to think through the lines of communications with staff who talk to customers, patients and the market. Another is to think how you will measure and handle social media explosions like the raft of jokes that this horse-meat story provoked – and be very careful about joining in Twitter banter. 

Practicing crisis scenarios – mock up media interviews etc – is vital and good practice anyway for all presentations. 

Finally, remember the golden hour. Get your response out fast and be proactive. Work as a team and make sure you’re all communicating the same message. 

Remember, every little helps!