Published October 17, 2015, 1:10 p.m.
By Sally Immel.
Transparency, transparency, transparency: We’ve heard this word a thousand times because it’s the first public relations lesson in the book. Ever since our first PR class, we were taught to always tell the truth — no matter what.
In today’s world of open communication through personal blogs and forums, transparency is only as effective as how quickly you respond to a crisis.
General Mills can attest to that when it had to recall more than 1.8 million boxes of supposedly gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios on Monday, Oct. 5. After the recall, General Mills didn’t waste any time communicating to its consumers. It posted a link to a press release on the company’s corporate home page, and a Cheerios executive penned a blog about the situation.
“As president of General Mills’ cereal business, I am embarrassed and truly sorry to announce today that we are recalling boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios produced on several dates at our Lodi, California facility,” stated Jim Murphy, SVP and president of General Mills’ cereal division.
On social media, General Mills posted a photo to Facebook that spurred a lot of comments. Instead of copying and pasting variations of a general response, General Mills personally replied to each comment — reassuring concerned mothers and
the gluten-free community.
Successfully instilling trust in consumers, General Mills’ recall and transparency campaign should serve as a model for brands preparing a crisis communication plan.
In a Newsweek article, Matthew Philips spoke with Gene Grabowski, chair of crisis and litigation practice at Levick Strategic Communications, about the Toyota recall of faulty accelerators.
Grabowski explained that with forums that create rumors, recalling isn’t as simple as the Tylenol recall in 1982. The biggest mistake that Toyota made in its recall was its poor timeliness in communicating to the consumer. Toyota representatives did an interview on the “Today Show,” but Grabowski said they should have done the interview a week before and communicated to consumers directly.
“This is an age of transparency and you have to join it,” said Grabowski. “Consumers can accept that you’re not perfect. What they cannot accept is that you’re not being transparent, because that then feeds thought of willful deception and cover-ups,” he continued.
According to Forbes.com the three T’s of a great PR experience are truth, trust and transparency. Saying that you have done something wrong is a sign of strength and leadership that will help a company recover more quickly.