Every meat and poultry processor faces literally thousands of possible crises -- or unexpected events that can interfere with the normal course of business, cause the public to lose its trust in the company or its products and, in some cases, even close an operation. Perhaps the most common crises confronted by most companies include: natural disasters, product tamperings or threats of tampering, foodborne illness outbreaks, government investigations, civil and criminal lawsuits, unauthorized photography of plant operations, strikes, demonstrations and product boycotts, workplace accidents and release of adverse product safety data. More recently, concerns have arisen about potential crises arising from animal disease outbreaks or biosecurity incidents. Sometimes part of the remedy or strategy for addressing these events -- such as a product recall -- can become a crisis in and of itself.
By preparing for crises in advance, companies can contain and minimize losses. In fact, about 50 percent of a company’s ability to survive a crisis depends to a large extent on how well a company has anticipated possible crises and how well it has prepared for those crises. The other critical part of crisis management is executing the plan and responding effectively to unanticipated aspects of the crisis.
As you plan for and manage crises, keep in mind that your trade association and your colleagues in the industry are available to help you. They may have managed a crisis similar to the one you are planning for or managing. Reach out appropriately. Share information as it becomes available. And seek a perspective different from your own. Ultimately, decisions related to crisis management are a company’s to make, but it never hurts to consider other points of view.
Although the appropriate response to a crisis depends to some extent on the particular circumstances involved, certain fundamentals of crisis management are appropriate in all crisis situations.
Through this Crisis Management Handbook, AMI hopes to give meat and poultry companies the tools to:
- Anticipate Crises
- Develop Crisis Management Teams
- Develop Crisis Management Plans & a Crisis Resource Book
- Gather Pertinent Information
- Manage Crises Confidently
- Effectively Communicate With Media, Customers and Regulatory Officials
- Bring Crises to Closure as Rapidly as Possible
The first portion of this handbook will assist companies in planning and preparing for crises. The second chapter is intended for use during a crisis and will address the five key components of successful crisis management: 1) Assemble a crisis management team; 2) get the facts - fast; 3) know your legal rights and responsibilities; 4) fix the problem or develop a plan to fix the problem; 5) communicate effectively.
The third chapter offers a variety of different, thought-provoking crisis scenarios with more specific recommendations. The final chapter includes checklists, model statements, contact lists and other resources to use during times of crisis. While every crisis has its unique components, there are several general elements of good crisis management which we believe this handbook provides.