“Where’s the Beef?” Don’t Ask IKEA

February 25th, 2013

Mislabeled beef has been trifling much of Europe as of late, and a few companies are taking the heat and feeling it burn. IKEA is one of the most recent companies to fall prey to a botched batch of meat, with new self-induced DNA tests detecting traces of horse-meat in their meatballs. IKEA had taken preemptive measures to make sure their meat was safe for consumers. The international retailer is a perfect example of how to deal with a crisis communication issue the best way possible. Here are a few steps to dealing with those sticky scandals.

  1. Be honest: While it’s not OK to keep quiet, especially during a scandal, it’s definitely not OK to lie. After taking preemptive measures to test their own meat, IKEA admitted there was an issue with the meatballs. Mistakes are made all the time, and it’s a matter of making sure you’re honest about them that ensures your trust with consumers.
  2. Take immediate action: Rather than sitting back and relaxing, or waiting for the storm to blow over, IKEA withdrew its meatballs served in 21 European countries, in addition to identifying its meat distributor. IKEA took action to assure its customers knew they were taking steps to remedy the immediate problem.
  3. Take long-term action: While IKEA may be under scrutiny like a lot of other companies serving meat to consumers, the company could take this scandal and turn it around to make it work in its favor. IKEA could take a stand against the improper management of suppliers, who are feeding people this mislabeled meat. For example, as a company uniquely scattered across Europe, they could advocate for stricter EU regulatory rules.  Doing so could seize an opportunity to turn their image as victim of food corruption into EU-wide leader in food-processing standards. That would certainly provide a huge image boost.

When a scandal breaks, you can’t hide from it. Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t exist in crisis communication, and telling the truth with tact and precision, and taking action for meaningful change is how your PR representative should go about the situation. Especially in this case, honesty is the best policy.

Posted Under: Crisis Communications, Media Relations, Public Relations, Storytelling
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