3 PR and marketing lessons from Fresh Del Monte’s recall

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Crises often show PR and marketing pros what to do—or what to avoid.

The recent recall of Fresh Del Monte products, in light of reports of
cyclosporiasis infections, is an example of the latter.

CBS News reported:

Health officials have reported 212 cases linked with recalled Del Monte 6
oz. and 12 oz. vegetable trays in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Michigan.
Seven people had to be hospitalized. The company is also recalling these
veggie trays in the state of Wisconsin, as well as 28 oz. veggie trays
which include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and dill dip, which
were distributed to Illinois and Indiana.

… The recalled products were distributed to the following stores: Kwik
Trip, Kwik Star, Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market,
FoodMax Supermarket, and Peapod.

The news follows an outbreak announcement published June 15 by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.


3 helpful tips for your crisis comms prep


was also issued in mid-June for the Del Monte trays, which included baby
carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and dill dip, and were labeled for sale by
Jun 17. But the number of infections has grown since then, and the CDC is
warning that more cases could still be reported, because the cyclosporiasis
infection has a delayed onset for symptoms of roughly one week and can last
for weeks. Anyone who might still have a recalled product should dispose of
it—washing contaminated produce is not enough to get rid of the pathogen.

The New York Times

The infection can cause a host of stomach-related illnesses, fever and
fatigue, and symptoms typically show up one week after the contaminated
food was consumed. That means that the number of cases could continue to
climb as more people start reporting their illnesses.

It is also one of the main reasons that cyclosporiasis is so difficult to
understand, said
Michael T. Osterholm, a professor at the University of Minnesota and an international
food-borne disease expert.

Here are three lessons brand managers can learn from the recall:

1. Get ahead of the crisis with effective PR.

Though Fresh Del Monte issued a voluntary recall of the potentially
infected vegetables, there is virtually no crisis response beyond the
recall announcement published by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company also posted the following about its sustainability efforts on
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

The post seems odd coming from a company with a recall for a cyclosporiasis

PR and marketing pros should monitor conversations and news across channels
and platforms and be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice. Otherwise
innocuous posts can add fuel to the fire after a crisis hits, so monitoring
your own feeds can help catch such posts and potential pitfalls.

preparing for a crisis
can help you handle the situation, brand managers who respond with
transparency and keep their audiences informed can quickly regain trust.

2. Invest in social media as a long-term strategy.

Fresh Del Monte’s YouTube channel
appears abandoned. Its most recent video was uploaded six months ago. It’s
the company’s corporate Christmas card. Roughly a year ago, 26 videos were
uploaded in the span of several weeks. The videos are a mix of ads, recipes
and corporate promotional videos shot with a humorous script.

The company’s Twitter account, Facebook page
and Instagram profile
have almost the exact same content, posted in the same order. It also lists
its corporate office via Google Maps as part of its social media profile
buttons—but lists it under the Google Plus icon.

Social media is not a “one and done� tactic, nor is it a communications
strategy that yields immediate results. PR and marketing pros must listen
to their organizations’ target audiences and then thoughtfully build
relationships based on strategic campaigns and efforts that involve more
than showcasing corporate messaging.

Your boss or client might think that if a video on YouTube or a posting
strategy on Facebook isn’t netting viral attention within a few weeks,
social media shouldn’t get portions of PR and marketing budgets. However,
many social media efforts take time to yield results. You can pivot after
evaluating analytics and stacking it against your strategic decisions.

3. Distinguish your brand.

The recent recall is not from Del Monte Foods, but rather from Fresh Del
Monte Produce, which is a separate company that sells its products with the
Del Monte name and label.

In a 2012 article,

The New York Times

… The two companies were created out of what had been a single Del Monte
after the takeover of its corporate owner, RJR Nabisco, in 1989.

Under the terms of two licensing agreements between the two companies,
Fresh Del Monte has the right to sell “fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and
fresh produce� under the Del Monte name, while Del Monte Foods has the
right to sell canned and preserved fruits, vegetables and produce.

That might seem like a fairly straightforward division of the spoils, but
the two companies have fought over those terms ever since, each accusing
the other of encroaching on its turf.

Because both companies use the same logo and branding, it has created
confusion for consumers. Del Monte’s social media team has responded to
people tweeting about the recall or asking them questions with tweets such
as the following:

Articles in publications such as

Good Housekeeping


USA Today

only mention the name “Del Monte,� and additional articles carry that name
in headlines.

The confusion might take some heat off Fresh Del Monte, but it highlights
the importance of branding and distinguishing your PR and marketing
messages, along with your value proposition.

Brand managers can mitigate reputational damage by quickly responding after
crises hit (or, if possible, before they affect your organization) and
keeping consumers informed.

What do you think of Fresh Del Monte’s crisis response, PR Daily

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