PR response to E.coli outbreak at Godstone Farm slammed by crisis experts

The owners of Godstone Farm and the Health Protection Agency 'look inept and dishonest' in their PR response to an E.coli outbreak that has infected several children.

E.coli outbreak: farm animals infect children
E.coli outbreak: farm animals infect children

Thirty-six people, including 12 children, have been taken ill after contracting E.coli from visiting Godstone Farm in Surrey over the past few weeks. Three children remain seriously unwell.
 
Brighter PR chairman Steve Dunne said the farm owners had been badly advised in PR terms. ‘There can sometimes be an argument in favour of not rushing into announcements and closures but when it comes to health and particularly where children are involved, that is just not a viable option. To then say that they took reasonable measures at the time of discovery, and for the news that the outbreak started in August and could affect 50,000 people, makes the HPA and the farm owners look inept and less than honest,' he said.
 
Regester Larkin's director Tim Johnson said: ‘Leadership, ownership and responsibility are crucial in a crisis. In the case when something is very sensitive, prudent overreaction is the way to go. They don't appear to have done that.
 
‘Instead there is a shifting of responsibility. It's not clear who's got ownership between the farm owners, the local authority and the HPA. They all seem to be passing the buck. In the coming three days, the public will ask who's to blame.'
 
Dunne said the farm owners' challenge was now to get the story and key messages across ‘when the news cycle has moved on. Otherwise the business of this farm is shot forever.'
 
Meanwhile, Rhizome PR's Dominic Hiatt pointed out the silver lining. ‘The irony is that while this is a PR disaster for Godstone Farm, at least it gets a back-link from the BBC, which will do its SEO no end of good.'

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