Ekim Burger rant shows need for crisis communication plan

30 April 2015

The Facebook response from a Wellington Burger business owner to an accusation of food poisoning is exactly why crisis communication plans are so vital these days.

It began when a customer sent him a private Facebook message. It began by saying the message was not a complaint. It then said she thought her son had been poisoned by one of his burgers.

He then made her message public, and posted an expletive filled update that insulted ‘office jocks’, ‘middle class housewives’ and others. This turned into a storm on Facebook. It was then picked up by traditional media.

This response highlights the need for all such businesses to have a Crisis Communication Plan. In a nutshell, this should be a basic document that details exactly how to communicate to relevant stakeholders in crisis situations or other adverse events.

With social media and the new 24 hour news cycle, you need to be ready to respond within minutes. What’s ironic in this situation is that the message sent to the burger business owner was private. That meant he could have dealt with it privately. Most of the time, these posts are public.

As often happens in these situations, he was not thinking clearly, anger took over and logic went out the window. If he had a crisis communication plan, he would have been able to defer to that. A good plan for any food service business would have an exact outline of what to do in this situation. I’m sure this must be a common complaint in this industry. The plan would have a pre-prepared message to send to this woman. It would have been thought out well in advance and free from the emotion that is inevitable when the real thing happens.

Crisis Communication Plans are all different. It depends on your industry and what crises you are most likely to face. But they should always have detailed lists and contact information for anyone who may need to be contacted. Multiple communication channels are also necessary.

Prepared statements are important for many, because once it hits the fan, there is little time to sit down and write statements for complainants or media. If it’s bad enough, the story will be on Facebook and online news sites whether you like it or not. If you want to balance the coverage and put your case, it needs to happen almost immediately.

Media Training is important for many because many crises or bad situations end up in traditional media. Not knowing how to face the media can cause all sorts of problems.

Time will tell how this affects Ekim Burger.

For more on my media training or crisis communication workshops, contact or 029 200 8555.

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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