One source, who has worked within Findus comms, 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’.
As PRWeek went to press, major shareholder, Lion Capital chief executive Lyndon Lea, told Sky News that the company had ignored his advice to tackle the crisis proactively. (Watch the exclusive interview in full below)
Findus UK withdrew its beef lasagne on 4 February, appointing Burson-Marsteller to handle crisis comms.
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 comms.
‘Findus looks like a soulless, faceless multinational hiding behind boring, reactive statements,’ added the source. Criticism also focused on the support given to Findus UK by Findus Group, which is understood to have disbanded its senior comms team in early 2011 to cut costs.
Another source with knowledge of the firm described the relationship as ‘a classic example of there being a level of bureaucracy and disconnect between what is being considered at the centre and what is happening on the ground’.
Kevin Craig, managing director of PLMR, 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 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 had been found to contain up to 100 per cent horsemeat broke on 7 February. Findus ran explanatory ads in seven newspapers on 9 February.
Read deputy editor Alec Mattinson's opinion column on Findus's crisis comms handling.