A crisis is always the ultimate test to expose the true soul of a company.
Salmonella contamination occurs frequently in Belgium but the majority never makes the news. Very occasionally a message appears in the newspaper to announce a recall. Not so with Ferrero.
The core of crisis communication: VALUES!
The key component of any crisis communication is to show the company’s attitude toward a society value that is compromised by the crisis. In this case, the health of consumers and more specifically of the children who were victims of the Salmonella contamination. In our crisis masterclass and media training, we teach our clients to focus their communications on these values from the very first minute.
Safety and health are general values that apply to all human activities. The protection of families as the cornerstone of society is also at the top as well as ethical conduct and the protection of the environment with attention to the climate. These values are universal, so to speak. Further values are the right of consumers to get adequate products and services and to be properly informed about them. The protection of the weak and the right to work are also part of the series. This is very topical, for example, within the immigration theme. Quality of life has risen sharply in recent years as a value, including the search for balance between private and professional life. Culture is also a value, and specifically local culture. Local norms and customs that determine how communities interact.
A few weeks after Ferrero, salmonella also struck chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut. The company reacted decisively, leaving no doubt about its approach to protecting consumers with a clear communication. A company can emerge positively from a crisis if it cares about these social values and acts accordingly. In the case of Ferrero, all we heard was the deafening noise of silence. The perfect storm that could have been avoided.