Archive for August, 2010

Managing product recall risk: retail channel

How closely is your business’s communication department tied into your reseller or retail network? If the answer is “not very” or similar then you’re likely to find yourself up against it in the event of a product recall.

Effective recalls depend on clear communication to stakeholders, and a committed effort by retailers to remove affected product from shelves as quickly as possible is the most visible example of this in action. But proper planning for a recall extends beyond just clearing shelves.

  • Careful monitoring of customer complaints to identify any possible product safety issues. If you have a product issue that hasn’t been picked up through your usual quality assurance/control processes, chances are the first you’ll hear of it is when the consumer complaints start getting back to you. Making sure that you have systematic monitoring of complaints helps identify potential issues much more quickly, which means you can intervene earlier, with better outcomes for both consumers and your business. It’s easier and cheaper to recall one hundred units of something than it is to recall a thousand.
  • Well prepared and rehearsed recall and crisis communications plan. Yes, obviously I’m going to say this because I work in crisis communication. The thing is, that doesn’t make the point any less relevant. Having worked on numerous recalls (and a number of near misses), on both sides of the world, I can tell you first-hand that the thing that makes the biggest difference is working with a team of people who know what they’re doing. That means having a plan, and knowing how to use it.
  • Suppliers/manufacturers should have responsibility for taking out recall insurance. Recalls are expensive things, and no-one ever wants to have one, so it’s a really good idea to cover yourself for the possibility that one day you’re going to have to stump for some kind of product recall. There are expenses at literally every step and the costs can mount quickly. Seriously, you have car insurance, home insurance, health insurance…why wouldn’t you do this as well?
  • Strict security measures at retail level to minimise product tampering risk. While we’d all like to believe the best of people, the fact remains that sometimes people tamper with products, and they do it for all manner of reasons. Part of the defence against this comes down to the security measures taken by retailers. It’s also helpful for ruling out actual tampering in cases where consumers have tried to fraudulently claim a product had an issue. I’ve worked at least two recall cases where store CCTV helped police identify a tampering or fraud suspect, averting the need for an actual recall.

If you’ve already had a go at playing Zurich’s risk management game, go back and see how you do now we’ve given you some of the answers (and yes, we have).

Tim Luckett talks recall and reputation with Communication World

As our regular readers would be aware, our unofficial theme of the month is product recall communication.Coincidentally, US-based industry magazine, Communication World, has featured an opionion piece on this topic, by our very own Lead Counsel for issues and crisis management, Tim Luckett.

If you’re a subscriber to CW you should definitely check it out because there’s a whole special feature on crisis management that’s worth at least two morning commutes. However if you’re not signed up, you could always try this version over at All Business.

Managing product recall risk: consumers

Following on from last week’s post featuring Zurich’s online product recall risk management game, we thought (based on some fairly shirty feedback from an individual with a disappointingly low score) that we’d provide some additional information that may be helpful.

There are five stages in the game, which correspond with stages in the manufacturing-consumption process, each with a series of risks that you need to categorise. The different stages are: Manufacturing, Packaging, Distribution, Retail and Consumer. Since most people working in PR are looking at the relationship with consumers, we’ll start there and work backwards over the next few posts. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the recession making us smarter?

posted by Peter Roberts

Figures from the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations would suggest that the tough times are proving to be a healthy catalyst for our mental wellbeing.

As a nation, we appear to be jettisoning the ribaldry of the lads’ mags for a different form of stimulation, as extended by those titles, WH Smith would collectively label, Current Affairs.

What’s the evidence? Weekly heavyweight, The Economist grew circulation in every region it operates worldwide in the first half of the year, while news ‘collage’, The Week saw growth of 6.7% year-on-year. Furthermore, David Goodhart’s Prospect enjoyed a jump of over 10% compared to the same time last year. What more, Private Eye posted a 0.5% increase year-on-year, while The Oldie showed growth of 9.1%.

Meanwhile, in the more tabloid corner, trade is positively sluggish.  Bauer Media’s, Zoo, was down by 27.9% year on year. Its older stable mate, Loaded lost 26.3% of its sales year on year, while IPC’s Nuts had wilted by 22% over the same time period.

So, there you have it – we’re swapping girl bands for Milibands, or are we? It is, of course, something of a specious argument, but probably holds a grain of truth in light of the usual pattern of self-improvement at times of uncertainty.

How good a risk manager are you?

It would make sense for a company’s crisis and risk managers to spend a bit of time talking to each other, perhaps even making an effort to get a rudimentary understanding of the other’s job.

Crisis management is made a lot easier if you can eliminate a lot of things that frankly just shouldn’t be issues in the first place, and I’m a fan of easy because it means I can have holidays. Also, it means your business is probably in better shape if you’re not having successive disasters.

Happily, the product recall experts at Zurich have created an online game to test your skills as risk manager for a manufacturing company – click on the pic below to try your hand:

It’ll take you anywhere from 3-15 minutes depending on how much you want to cheat with Google. Also…if you disagree with the answers, seriously, don’t email me. I didn’t get them all right either.

The three Rs of product recall communication

It’s been a long time between drinks here on our team blog. Largely due to the fairly annoying nature of proper crises coming up at those incredibly inconvenient times and making me focus again on my day job. Also, I have just been on holiday, so now that I’m recharged with a full dose of melanin, we’re back and raring to go.

Way back in June I attended the airmic 2010 annual conference, which sees risk managers join with insurers and other like-minded types to talk about all things risk. I was invited to attend by our friends from Zurich Financial Services, as they launched their new Product Safety and Recall Insurance offer to the UK market. Read the rest of this entry »