Crisis or Issues Management Campaign of the Year 2009

Recognizing the most effective crisis- or issues-management work by an agency, corporate PR team, or a combination of both.

Winner
Fleishman-Hillard and Bumble Bee Foods: Castleberry's National Food Recall – Public Health & Safety from Botulism Risk

On July 18, 2007, the FDA alerted Castleberry's Food Company, a manufacturer of canned beef products, that there was a possible botulism outbreak linked to its hot dog chili sauce. The company and Fleishman-Hillard, AOR for parent company Bumble Bee, immediately went to work to issue a national product recall. Three days later, the recall was voluntarily expanded to include all products from the company's Augusta, GA, plant, leading to the site's closure while the botulism source was found and eradicated.

However, the companies faced a huge communications challenge in executing the recall. Neither Castleberry's nor Bumble Bee had a crisis plan; Castleberry's lacked communications resources; and Fleishman had not worked with Castleberry's previously, but had to ramp up quickly and work in real-time on this issue.

The agency and client had three objectives for dealing with the recall. First, they wanted to ensure awareness of the recall to maximize consumer health and safety. Second, they sought to protect the company and its brands. Third, they hoped to restore Castleberry's reputation as a reliable operation with various stakeholders.

Fleishman assembled a team from various offices to tap into each one's strengths, such as San Diego, where Bumble Bee is based; Miami for Spanish-language efforts; Washington for regulatory purposes; and Hong Kong for 24-hour media monitoring.

To start, the firm created a list of action items to be executed in the first hours of the recall. A toll-free number was established to answer consumer questions. A Q&A and one-on-one interviews were developed to manage cases. Updates were also maintained on the Web. When the recall was expanded, the team held a national press conference call and Fleishman launched a Hispanic campaign that included Spanish press releases, in-language call center operators, and ANRs. Updates were filtered continuously both internally to employees and externally to customers and shareholders. The effort continued through July, August, and September.

One judge said the campaign was “an excellent example of working effectively to paint the ship while sailing.”

Analysis of the media coverage in print, online, and broadcast showed that of 5,773 stories produced between July 19 and August 8, 65% featured more intended than non-intended messages. During the week of July 21, the highest point of the recall, 95% of the coverage included the intended message. In September 2007, operations resumed and Castleberry's launched a new product. Bumble Bee's president and CEO was also invited to speak to Congress about the recall for public health and safety policy purposes.

Honorable Mention
Edelman and Imperial Sugar: Crystallizing a Community Response to a Corporate Crisis

Nine days after John Sheptor became CEO of Imperial Sugar, an explosion ripped through the company's refinery in Port Wentworth, GA. Imperial turned to Edelman to gain public support for rebuilding in the community, which was both dependent on the company and fearful after the incident. Imperial and Edelman relied on the company's roots in the town to engage residents, and used local media outreach to demonstrate the community's support for Imperial. Daily meetings were held with employees, and local media outreach was conducted for weeks after the explosion. Imperial acted to help the community and asked the public to participate. A memorial service – which attracted more than 2,000 people, including US senators, congressmen, and local officials – showcased local contributions and heroes. The company visited with residents to underscore the importance of the refinery to the community and to identify community needs. “The campaign showed genuine empathy while achieving the business objectives,” said one judge. Relief efforts raised $10,000 in material and financial support per employee and 2,700 units of blood. Due to community support, the board voted in favor of rebuilding.

Finalists

Edelman and Imperial Sugar: Crystallizing a Community Response to a Corporate Crisis
Fleishman-Hillard and Bumble Bee Foods: Castleberry's National Food Recall – Public Health & Safety from Botulism Risk
French | West | Vaughan and GeneralSports Venue: Lead Chromate Controversy
MS&L and CIT Group: CIT: Navigating the Credit Crunch
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and American Chemistry Council: From Toxic to Truthful: Turning the Tide on Phthalates

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