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Friday, 4 October 2013

Communications Lessons Learned From The Horsemeat Scandal

After a summer break, the monthly Sustainability Communications Lunch returned with a presentation from Lisa McCooey, Deputy Director General and Director of Communications at trade association FoodDrinkEurope.

When the horsemeat scandal story broke, FoodDrinkEurope quickly became a go-to source for journalists.  Lisa told us about how the events unfolded and how FoodDrinkEurope chose to respond.

As Director of Communications, Lisa felt that FoodDrinkEurope had to react quickly.  Although the horsemeat scandal turned out to be fraud rather than a safety issue, this was not how it was initially reported in the media.  Therefore a consistent, industry-wide response was required, otherwise a ‘media gap’ could have been created where only one side of the story was represented, said Lisa.

FoodDrinkEurope made sure that there was a written statement as quickly as possible on their website and responded to all relevant media queries, conducting many interviews in a range of languages.  The organisation guided the media to other sources of industry information as appropriate and reassured journalists that FoodDrinkEurope would keep them updated as the story developed.

Knowing that ‘showing not telling’ consumers the story would be more effective, Lisa facilitated press visits to FoodDrinkEurope members’ factories to show them the realities of processed food production.  With the story picking up on social media, it was also vital for FoodDrinkEurope to monitor and react to interactions.

In the lengthy and stimulating Q&A session that followed, Lisa affirmed that ultimately, no matter what the communications crisis, it is important to accept interviews, explain the facts and show your story.

Thanks to everyone who attended and to Lisa for taking the time out to share her experiences. The event photos are on the Sustainability Consult Facebook Page.

Blog by Bárbara Mendes-Jorge

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