Despite the angst surrounding Blue Bell Creameries’ well-publicized listeria outbreak, one thing is clear: Blue Bell has practiced stellar crisis communications.
The company has been honest, transparent and accountable, qualities which have placed it in the best possible position to rebound from this crisis.
Overwhelmingly, public response on Twitter has been positive. As one commenter put it: “I don’t think media quite understand the emotional attachment Texans feel for #BlueBell.”
I’m not sure the families of the three dead in Kansas would agree.
David Sommer, the Charles E. Cheever chair of risk management at St. Mary’s University said Blue Bell’s initial response has not been ideal, adding, “The multiple and expanding recalls kept the company in the news for six weeks. It’s important to get the facts out as soon as possible. A company must be seen as proactive, not reactive.”
Blue Bell has set up a toll-free telephone number for consumers to call with questions. It is 866-608-3940, according to its website. The Blue Bell website also has a statement from CEO and President Paul Kruse, dated April 20, that explains the company’s safety and testing steps that are now underway.
“The company will have to start a significant advertising campaign,” Sommer said. “It must have humility about its mistakes, apologize to its customers and add assurances that it won’t happen again.
“People want to know the company feels regret and is making assurances it won’t happen again.”
And to do that, with all the increased Listeria testing, make the results publicly available.