As communications professionals, we are well aware of the backlash of bad press and often jump at the word crisis. I’m sure most, if not all of us have walked into the office to a bad news story and had our entire day sidetracked. It’s a PR professional’s worst nightmare, but that’s why we make it a point to read and/or watch the news every morning because you never know what is going to come your way.
It’s bound to happen at some point—your client or company is called out in a news story and the review isn’t great. Case in point are several CPG companies who are being called into question for their advertising of unhealthy snacks to preschoolers and young children.
Earlier this week, researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released a report that shows food companies have increased their advertising to children for chips and other junk food. The findings were also presented at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference.
Researchers compared the number of snack ads children and teens, ages 2 to 17, saw in 2010 and 2014, as well as what types of products were being promoted.
So what does the study show? Currently 40 percent of ads that children see on TV are for snacks. This includes products such as chips, cookies and fruit snacks, as well as healthier options such as yogurt, fruit and nuts. In fact, preschoolers, ages 2 to 5, saw an average of 582 snack ads on TV in 2014, an increase of 18 percent since 2010. Only about a quarter of these ads were considered healthy by the USDA Smart Snacks standards.
While there is the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in place, this regulation only applies to programming that is considered “child-directed media,” such as Nickelodeon, but not programs that children might view on other networks, according to the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center.
Handling negative news appropriately is critical to an organization. So, what is the appropriate way to respond to negative press? Depending on your client or company’s crisis plan, the process will vary. But, it’s important to be honest, frequent and consistent with media and target audiences.
Here are few steps to follow:
- Analyze the situation. Begin fact finding and research immediately with the goal of collecting enough information to start the communication process.
- Monitor the coverage. Monitoring throughout a crisis is critical, including social media channels, traditional media outlets and online communities. It can often be having one-on-one meetings with key influencers as well.
- Check the facts. Are the statistics accurate? Does the story align with the organization’s findings? If not, request that the reporter or producer correct the inaccuracy. A few guidelines to follow:
- Reserve correction requests for errors that negatively impact the brand and not just a client or company preference.
- Reach out to the reporter or producer first when requesting a correction.
- It’s always better if the reporter can make the correction themselves—it provides third party validation and it also opens the door for a more positive, ongoing relationship and maintaining your connections.
- Correction requests can damage a relationship, so use them sparingly.
- Develop the messaging. Once you have an understanding of the message at hand, it’s important to immediately develop anticipated questions and a complete message track.
- Restore Lost Reputation. The initial crisis may have passed, however the damage inflicted on the client often remains. A long term communication plan should be designed to restore lost credibility.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need additional support, or if you are looking for ways to implement a proactive plan, PadillaCRT’s Crisis & Critical Issues team are on hand to help.