Peter Kerr, founder of KerrComm, spoke to the Global 500 audience of dairy farmers and beef producers on Crisis and opportunity: Sustaining a business in turbulent times. Ag producers are no strangers to public relations crises in the current media climate. Kerr provided examples of companies that were able to turn a PR nightmare into an incredible opportunity, the most well-known being the 1982 Tylenol cyanide poisoning incident.
Tylenol reacted quickly by removing all capsules from the shelves everywhere at a cost of over $100 million. They brought the product back with tamper proof packaging and caplets instead of capsules. They were then able to demonstrate that they had the only truly safe product on the market and they became the overwhelmingly dominant brand. Tylenol was able to do this because their company policy and mission statement was to always put public safety and health first above all else.
Kerr provided many great recommendations. The most important thing you can do in a crisis is tell the truth. Lying or trying to cover up a problem will just keep the story alive and change it from a physical crisis to a crisis of integrity. An unfortunate incident, which may have been out of your control, can do long-lasting damage to your credibility. Tell the truth and turn the conversation to the future. Explain what you will do or are already doing to prevent a similar incident from happening again.