- Take it Seriously. A week ago, when asked about the “elephant in the room,” New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady replied before 4,000 cheering and laughing Patriots fans “Where? When I digest it fully, I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about it… This is like a Patriots pep rally.”
Last March Blue Bell announced a product recall for the first time in 108 years after discovering what was then believed to be a single machine producing a limited amount of frozen snacks with a potential listeria problem. Crisis Communication Rule 1: Treat Serious Matters Seriously.
2. Actions Count. Although Brady appeared for an interview and voluntarily answered questions, his failure to cooperate contributed to his punishment when he refused to produce texts and emails even with his attorney being allowed to screen and limit production strictly to responsive materials.
Last April Blue Bell reiterated its commitment “…to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we are confident that they are all safe…. [bringing] in one of the world’s most respected food safety microbiologists to inspect our plants and systems to help us get to the bottom of this issue.” Crisis Communication Rule 2: Actions Speak Louder than Words.
3. Accountability is Critical. Brady’s agent blasted the 243 page Wells report and vowed to appeal the decision. Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft, who last week said he would accept any punishment despite his serious misgivings about the Wells report’s findings, denounced both the penalties and the initial report.
In its latest May press release, Blue Bell reported that it collected approximately 8 million gallons of ice cream sold domestically and internationally, and closed production plants in Brenham, Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama to thoroughly clean and sanitize each facility and review all operating procedures and its production process to eliminate possible contamination pathways. Crisis Communication Rule 3: When You are Wrong, Admit it and Take Your Medicine.
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor. Nothing is more important than your reputation, and a key ingredient to reputation is trustworthiness. Rather than denying outright any knowledge or participation in “Deflategate,” had Brady first communicated that he was a fierce competitor who looked to take advantage of every opportunity to help his team win and later acknowledged that the air pressure was below recommendations, Brady might have preserved his reputation as a fierce yet forthright competitor.
When challenged by a crisis, you must have a plan– Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.
*Paul Kruse, CEO & President of Blue Bell Creameries in March 27, 2015 letter to customers