Recall action must be decisive to avoid egg on face

Johnson & Johnson's CEO Bill Weldon was this week up before Congress answering for actions relating to products including Motrin by one of its healthcare subsidiaries.

Johnson & Johnson's CEO Bill Weldon was this week up before Congress answering for actions relating to products including Motrin by one of its healthcare subsidiaries.

He acknowledged that sending contractors out to stores to buy up the offending products, rather than implementing a formal recall, was “not one of our finer moments.” Indeed. That's got to be one of the understatements of the year.

As sure as eggs is eggs, every manufacturer or food company will at some time have to face up to the unpleasant reality of a product recall. (Indeed, a recent salmonella outbreak did in fact lead to the recall of hundreds of millions of eggs last month, but I digress.)

Recall stories are particular favorites of media large and small, with all the incumbent opportunities to whip up scaremongering and have a dig at corporate America. In this context, it is absolutely vital for companies and organizations to act quickly and decisively when these crises emerge.

And as Jules Andres, director of corporate communications at toy company Mattel, noted in a recent print edition of PRWeek, it is just as important to communicate to internal staff as it is to customers and external stakeholders.

In 2007, Mattel had an issue with lead in toys manufactured by a Chinese supplier, and it was in the news again this week concerning problems with some of its Fisher-Price products, which led to a recall of almost 11 million items.

Information flies around the Internet and social media at such a rapid pace that employees must be brought into the loop immediately to stem rumor and misinformation. Companies must get on the front foot to ensure they are leading the agenda, not reacting to it. In today's world of ubiquitous social media and a febrile press, it is simply not possible to keep secrets. A culture of openness and responsibility must prevail.

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