H&K tackles bird-flu criticism

Hill & Knowlton has justified keeping Bernard Matt­hews' eponymous founder and chairman out of the spotlight during the bird-flu crisis on its farm, despite media criticism.

The agency, working on a crisis management brief, has opted instead to use Bernard Matthews comm­ercial di­rector Bart Della Mura as spokesman, as part of its strategy.

‘We made a serious, early decision to use the person who is closest to the day-to-day running of the business,’ said H&K issues and crisis MD Tim Luckett. ‘Bernard is aware of the situation and is monitoring it closely.’

Sources close to the founder point out that the 77-year-old has shied away from any media appearances in recent years.

Bernard Matthews first called in H&K late last summer to advise on comms during a possible bird-flu outbreak. Since last week’s outbreak was confirmed, four H&K staff have to date fielded more than 500 calls.

The discovery of bird-flu prompted a swift cull of nearly 160,000 turkeys at Matthews’ Suffolk farm.

Luckett said that now the cull is over, a proactive PR campaign would be implemented

‘Up until now [Tuesday] it has been largely reactive work,’ he added. ‘There is a brand recovery strategy to be implemented.’

Luckett said Bernard Matthews would emphasise the safety and quality of its food, having successfully communicated the fact that bird flu has been contained.

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