It tells of the quality of an individual.
In times of dread and crisis, one’s character can make or break a situation.
Character illustrates their sense of priority and value, and their actions within an incident reveal their upbringing and history. We can learn a lot about a person from their character. Admittedly, we learn a lot about a company from its character as well.
What a company chooses to do (or not do) says a lot about its priority and values.
I’ve seen this work really well for companies who share their stories in good times, connecting with the communities in which they work and serve. When bad times hit, those people are there, sometimes asking hard questions, but they remain active, questioning participants and sharers of that company’s responses. It’s much easier in bad times to find a warm audience when you’ve built a community of people who already listen to you.
Sadly, some of Alberta’s biggest and most notable companies lack a worthy content or communication strategy.
XL Foods and The Art of Eating Your Heart
In the last three weeks, Canada has watched the downward spiral of XL Foods as the incidence of E-coli tainted meat forced over 1500 types of food products off shelves, and stirred an international cease of exports.
XL has been completely mum about the entire situation, saying nothing to journalists, bloggers, social media mavens or provincial/federal government whips or backbenchers (publicly) as an effort to give perspective.
Recipes Against Disaster
As a content strategist, this is one of the worst things that can play out for a company. Any company of size requires adequate people with the talent to:
- Assess communications issues and business risks and potential crises
- Create adequate means to respond quickly and using appropriate protocols
- Reassure buyers, supporters, vendors, ministers of government and stakeholders that the issue will be remedied
- Create a “war-room-response” approach in times of crisis to report regularly/daily to media to get your message out.
To their credit, XL Foods’s website has one page dedicated to the recall. It offers links to the government website which outlines the 1500+ food items recalled and their dates. I find it remarkably disappointing that so little attention has been placed on the situation from a content standpoint. Media should have a page entirely dedicated to the news updates and they should be at the least providing short blog post updates on the status of the recall and when things might get back on track.
“Doing Nothing is Doing Something.”
XL Foods has unfortunately done none of these things, and a number of short and long-term problems may now loom over them (some for years).
For starters, consumer confidence has little to nothing to build momentum on. The only effort to promote beef consumption will come from those buyers of XL products (which might change without some serious hand holding).
Secondly, the recall is being touted as a voluntary effort from the company, but the public generally has not be made aware of that fact. All we hear is what has been going on in the House of Commons, accusations that it was only because of American inspectors that this was even seen, despite the 9+ cases of E-coli poisoning.
Thirdly, the long term effects of this crisis could be very long lasting without a clear leadership being taken by the company. Customers of XL might become far less confident with XL Foods, simply because outside of their sales associates, few to no one has been talking to them about the situation, disseminating up to date information from an appropriately high level.
In times of crisis, it pays to deliver.
Deliver message. Deliver commitment. Demonstrate character.
A company that lacks character will wear that regardless how profitable they are. Profits will only please one audience: Shareholders. Companies need to reach many more audiences than that, and their needs vary.
So if you haven’t looked into it yet. Find out who your people are and how they want to be talked to. When the time comes that they start demanding difficult answers, you can at least be ready to respond honestly and earnestly—and preserve your character.
Best of luck!