Product recalls can go one of two ways. In the first, worst-case scenario, a product is determined to be dangerous or defective; its manufacturer ignores or reacts sluggishly to the issue; people are unnecessarily put at risk; and consumer trust is irreparably damaged. In the best-case alternative, meanwhile, the manufacturer assumes responsibility; takes quick action; and minimizes harm to both consumers and its reputation alike. What one thing can ensure that your company ends up in the latter category, not the former? A product recall communication plan.
While product recall problems are not exactly new, they’re rising in number. So why don’t companies have plans in place to deal with them when they arise? As a Harvard Business Review article on recall management pointed out more than a decade ago, “In the frenzy of a product launch, the last thing most managers think about is how to get a new product back if something goes wrong.”
Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong—to the tune of 6.5 recalls a day in this country, according to USA Today. And when they go wrong in our digital, social era, they do so in a far more catastrophic way than they did 50 or 20 or even 10 years ago.
Because there’s so much at stake, businesses can’t afford to wait until a problem arises to take action, they must have a proactive plan in place—one that, “cuts across the company, addressing the implications of a recall for all relevant business functions,” according to HBR. This goes far beyond merely discovering the problem and conducting the recall itself, but also includes following up in the aftermath. Along each of these steps, communication is an integral part of the plan.
But communicating with today’s 21st century consumers is easier said than done. Not only do businesses have to worry about reaching them, but they have to worry about reaching them in a meaningful way that won’t be ignored or dismissed amidst the omnipresent recall din. In other words, a communication plan doesn’t just delineate what message will be conveyed, but also how that message will be delivered—a paramount consideration in today’s multichannel environment.
The takeaway for today’s bottom line-minded businesses? With recalls on the rise, the reality is that it may happen to you. If and when it does, will you be prepared for that growing possibility with a plan aimed at minimizing damage, maximizing trust, and protecting both your consumers and your business alike?