In a social media era, brand protection starts with food safety

January 28, 2019

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” This quote from business magnate Warren Buffett, adorning the cubicle walls of public relations and communications experts everywhere, should also hold a place in the heart of food safety managers. In an era of rapidly spreading information, food safety incidents such as adulteration and outbreaks can shake a consumer’s trust before an official response can even be written. In food safety and brand crafting, proactivity is key.

Be the best

The best way to protect your brand is simply to be a good brand. Be dependable and deliver consistently, allowing consumers to trust their food providers.

This involves having a solid, effective food safety plan and being transparent about it. Some of the most trusted companies have made quality and safety a cornerstone of their brand, sharing their food safety culture and commitment with consumers on their websites. Food Quality & Safety Magazine points out five areas of concern for brands dealing with food safety and compliance issues, including the underutilization of third-party certifications and a slow-moving supply chain.

These key areas are already known to the food industry, but there is one area often overlooked when it comes to addressing food safety crises: social media. Food Quality & Safety, in fact, compares a robust food defense plan with a strong social media strategy — both must be proactive and diligent, and every company should have one.

Be social media savvy

Social media is a powerful tool for the spread of information — or misinformation, which is often the case with food topics.

When any news, good or bad, comes out on a food company, it’s likely consumers will take to the social media beat to discuss it. It’s almost inevitable for larger companies. An estimated 2.77 billion people will log on to social media during 2019, and it’s likely that much of a food company’s consumer base — regardless of age or gender — is among that group.

Some users love to reach out, to share how much they love the product — or to drop some disgruntled words. Events like a product recall might bring a wave of notifications to social media accounts. Knowing how to navigate the ebbing and flowing tides in your social media metrics will go a long way in managing your image in food safety situations.

Here are seven things to keep in mind:

  • Respond quickly, whether it’s a minor complaint or a major recall. Of those who complain through social media, nearly 40% expect a response within one hour and 24% want a reply within 30 minutes, yet the average response time for businesses is five hours, according to Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters.

  • Take ownership and acknowledge mistakes. Reinforce the trust customers have in your company.

  • Be positive, personable, sincere and specific in your responses. Demonstrate genuine concern that their issue is being heard. Automated, canned replies don’t communicate empathy, so use them as templates to customize to each situation.

  • Move discussions offline through private messaging after two online replies. Emphasize moving offline to provide the individualized attention they deserve.

  • Follow up to ensure the complaint is handled. Let them know, in general terms, if policies or processes are changed to reinforce that their concern was valued and made a difference.

  • Create a company plan to deal with food safety issues, including drafting responses to adapt to specific situations. This prepares employees to proactively deal with issues when they occur, rather than spending valuable time crafting a response in a crisis. This also helps them quickly connect with the best internal expert for resolution.

  • Continuously monitor conversations about your product and brand. Social media listening software can help with this, sincecomplaints don’t always tie back to the business.  


Category: Food Safety, Consumer Goods, Dietary Supplements, Food & Beverage, Pet Food, Allergens, Pathogens, Environmental Monitoring, Sanitation & Hygiene