Much has been said and is going to be said by many people on the unfortunate challenge being faced by Nestle.
The vital point, however, is how the company needs to handle the situation.
Without getting into any more whys and wherefores, they can consider the following way forward for managing this crisis.
Contain the crisis. Recall the products on your initiative. Do not wait for government/s to ban it. State that you need to check your products and your processes. Put customer safety foremost and take the first step towards accountability.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. In times of crisis especially.
In times of crisis especially.
Nothing ever gets resolved by silence. In fact, silence can ruin all the efforts put into corporate branding so far. The other products are already feeling the heat.
The immediate need for containing this challenge is to issue a Press statement and Advertisement widely. Use all platforms that you can.
The communique should state very sincerely as to how you ‘care’ for your customers – kids, moms, dads, students, everybody – and why you would willfully never do anything to harm them.
Tender an apology, and state that you are looking into your processes, and how you intend to respond to the situation speedily.
Spend considerable time drafting the communication, and then spread it out wide.
Remember an apology is not an admission of guilt always. It is needed to soothe all the ruffled feathers, and there are many feathers being ruffled in the markets nowadays.
If you are in the wrong, admit it and enumerate how you are going to correct those wrongs. Owning up to a mistake is the first step towards rebuilding trust.
If you are not in the wrong, spread awareness of your safety norms and processes. Be straightforward. Don’t buffer the top leadership line. They should come out and talk, on all possible forums while maintaining the consistency of communication.
Manage your processes
Find out what went wrong, where and how, and fast. Check procedures for other products as well. Outsource to a credible third party if possible, whose findings can be considered non-biased by all stakeholders.
At every stage, take the public with you. Inform them. Take them into confidence. They took your products into their houses, fed them to their kids. Now it is your turn to reciprocate, as a responsible company. The public ultimately deserves your feedback.
Checks and Balances
Ensure they are in place. If a new department is needed, so be it. Regular self-audits and third- party audits should be implemented, and communicated.
More than ever, in a PR crisis, speed is of utmost essence.
Trust can be strong enough to sustain challenges over a lifetime, and yet fragile enough to snap in a second.
Customer relationships are entirely built on trust.
Trust is built on communication and commitment.
Preserve this trust carefully, cherish it and respect it.