Lessons from yesterday's 1080 threat announcement

Posted March 11, 2015

Anyone in business should learn from the decision by Government, Police and the Dairy Industry to announce the threat that has been posed to baby formula in NZ if the use of 1080 is not stopped.

Clearly it was necessary to alert consumers before the end of March, because that was the time the eco-terrorist gave authorities to end the use of 1080 in New Zealand. Any parent using baby formula would be angry (to say the least) if they were not informed, even if it’s unlikely the threat would ever be carried out.

Apart from the obvious safety risks, the reputational risk of saying nothing is just as important. Imagine if the perpetrator went to the media anonymously at the end of March and explained what had happened.

If authorities had kept this to themselves because they thought nothing would come of it, they would now be accused of a high level cover-up. They would be accused of putting profits ahead of baby safety. Foreign markets would also question the good reputation New Zealand currently has with these matters.

Now take a look at your own business. What would you do if you faced a similar threat? It could be at a far lower level. It could be an extortion attempt, or someone complaining they got food poisoning from your café or restaurant. If this was serious, would you alert customers and the media, or would you hush it up and hope nothing would come from it?

These are all questions you should be asking now. They may never happen, but what if they do? You need a crisis management plan all ready to swing into action. This should outline exactly who would do what and when if the unthinkable does happen. Fonterra found this out the hard way a few years ago, but this 1080 issue has been dealt with well by all parties involved.

If you say this will never happen to you and don’t plan, that’s like failing to insure your business against fire. And a bad reputation can kill your business a lot quicker than a fire can.

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

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