Fonterra learns important media training lesson with cream recall

15 January 2014
It may have come only a few months after last year’s contamination scare, but this week’s cream recall shows that Fonterra has learnt some important media training lessons. FonterraFirstly, it was announced and dealt with immediately. This meant no-one could accuse the company of wasting time or not being transparent. These were big complaints last year. The company should also be congratulated for apologising at the outset. This is important and is something that is often overlooked. In situations like this, it must be done to recognise those who have been affected. It is also something people expect. If legal reasons mean a company can’t apologise, it can still show empathy to those affected. This is also often overlooked. The third thing Fonterra did well here was use a sole spokesperson. He was clear, concise and had a simple message. The importance of using a single spokesperson is something we emphasise withy our media training clients. The problem with using more than one means the company risks the possibility of mixed messages getting out. This is exactly what happened last year. A Fonterra spokesperson on Campbell Live said additional products may also have been contaminated. This was incorrect and at odds with what others had said. This doesn’t happen if one person does all the talking. Admittedly, last year’s suspected contamination was a far bigger issue than this one. But if more than one spokesperson must be used, and this should not happen often, they clearly need to be singing from the same song sheet. So Fonterra did well this time. Because it came out publicly straight away, apologised and did not communicate mixed messages, the company was able to limit the PR damage. Other companies would do well to learn from this example. For more on our media training or presentation training, contact

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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