All tagged Crisis Communication

Maple Leaf Foods (not a client) today launched a blog in response to the 2008 Listeria deaths caused by eating its deli meats and, as with much of how the company handled the crisis, it is a very good model for the language and tone of effective messaging . . . frank, honest and contrite. (Although its design is quite lackluster.)

The first post is by CEO Michael McCain and here is how it begins: "Since August 2008 twenty-one Canadians have died after eating Maple Leaf deli meats contaminated with Listeria.  We all watched in horror as the worst food safety crisis in modern Canadian history rolled across the country." Now that's frank and the antithesis of how many companies begin apologies after serious events.

Later in the post Mr. McCain writes "This was by far the most awful event in the one hundred year history of our company.  I can’t properly describe the overwhelming sense of grief and responsibility we all felt … I felt, personally (emphasis added).  You may remember seeing me on television back then, apologizing for the tragedy and vowing to develop the most comprehensive anti-Listeria program of any food company in Canada." He then goes on to outline in details the changes Maple Leaf has made to reduce Listeria findings in its plants.

Even more significant he actually raises three subsequent issues related to Maple Leaf Foods' safety performance that most people had likely forgotten.

Textbook . . .

Ontario quietly passed Bill 108, the Apology Act, yesterday . . . although for some reason media coverage has been very limited and more detailed information doesn't seem to be available on the website of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General.

According to soonews.ca, "The legislation would allow an individual or organization to offer an apology as part of the dispute resolution process without concern over legal liability. The Apology Act provides that an apology made in relation to a civil matter does not constitute an admission of fault or liability and would not be admissible in a civil proceeding."

What coverage there is focuses on the impact of the Act in particular on medical and other professionals and how it may assist in dispute resolution.

The important question is whether the Act will encourage legal counsel in Ontario to be more flexible in their advice to companies on what they can and can't say when their products or services cause harm. Is it too much to hope that this may open the door for companies to consider more active reputation defense strategies -- starting with expressions of regret and compassion -- rather than relying only on legal-driven refusals to comment for fear of legal liability?