Findus' crisis comms blasted as 'not fit for purpose'

Industry insiders have lambasted Findus UK's response to the horsemeat crisis.

Industry insiders have lambasted Findus UK's response to the horsemeat crisis.

One source, who has worked in Findus' communications structure, described the company as “a rabbit in the headlights.” The source claimed the frozen-food company needed to take action to turn the situation around, otherwise it would die “a slow death.”

A major shareholder, Lion Capital CEO Lyndon Lea, told Sky News that the company had ignored his advice to tackle the crisis proactively.

Findus UK withdrew its beef lasagne from stores on February 4 and appointed Burson-Marsteller to handle crisis communications.

The comms source added that it was “a big, big mistake” not to have put forward a company figure to talk to the media and slammed the lack of proactive communications.

“Findus looks like a soulless, faceless multinational hiding behind boring, reactive statements,” added the source.

Critics also focused on the support of Findus UK by Findus Group, which is understood to have disbanded its senior communications team in early 2011 to cut costs.

Another source with knowledge of the company described the relationship as “a classic example of there being a level of bureaucracy and disconnect between what is being considered at the center and what is happening on the ground.”

PLMR MD Kevin Craig, who has advised several companies including food group 2 Sisters on crisis preparedness, also claimed the company was not keeping pace with the story.

“The lack of a spokesperson on broadcast media as late as Friday of last week was hard to understand, and the initial statement put out by the company was not fit for purpose,” he said.

The story that its lasagne was found to contain up to 100% horsemeat broke on February 7. Findus ran explanatory ads in seven newspapers two days later.

Click here to read PRWeek UK deputy editor Alec Mattinson's column on Findus' crisis comms handling.

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK, the sister publication of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.

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