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Role of Crisis Communications Handling Avian Influenza and Other Workplace Epidemic Crisis Communications Michael Fineman. California Industrial Hygiene Council Conference December 5, 2006, San Diego.

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Presentation Transcript

Role of Crisis Communications

Handling Avian Influenza and Other

Workplace Epidemic Crisis Communications

Michael Fineman

California Industrial Hygiene Council Conference

December 5, 2006, San Diego

background of founder and agency
Background of Founder and Agency
  • Michael Fineman, President
    • Founded Fineman PR in 1988
    • National reputation as a leading crisis counselor:

Named One of 22 “Crunch-Time Counselors” Who Should Be on the Speed Dial – PR WEEK

    • Consumer, Brand PR, tech and Latino/multi-cultural practices
    • International reach – Member of global IPREX
examples including workplace crises
Examples: Including Workplace Crises
  • Odwalla: E.coli contamination
  • Fresh Express Farms: product tampering
  • Packaged Salad Industry: bacteria in bags
  • Wine Industry: charges of “wine taint”
  • Pacifica Foundation: (KPFA-FM) shutdown
  • Annabele’s Candy: foreign matter
  • Kendall-Jackson: environmental issues
  • Foster Farms: Avian Influenza, West Nile Virus,

bio-security, health and safety issues

foster farms case study part 1
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 1
  • Avian Influenza: A Crisis of Fear
    • PR tracking begins in 2004 with first outbreak in Asia
    • High path H5N1 spread from Asia into Europe (2005)
    • Possible threat of imminent pandemic
    • American poultry export sales declined overseas
    • Foster Farms wanted to safeguard its domestic sales, since Exotic Newcastle outbreak caused previous sales decline in U.S.
    • Decision to challenge misleading media reports
    • Widespread confusion, rampant misinformation
foster farms case study part 2
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 2
  • Consumer Survey Revealed Extent of Public Misinformation:
    • 45% believed AI was already in the U.S. - FALSE
    • 47% believed AI could be transmitted through poultry consumption - FALSE
    • 48% believed Americans were in serious and imminent danger of being exposed to a deadly strain of AI - FALSE
Bottom Line: There was an urgent need to communicate and

assure consumers that Foster Farms poultry is protected, as well

as to describe stringent bio-security measures already in place.

foster farms case study part 3
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 3
  • Communications Goals:
    • Correct misleading information from media
    • Help consumers understand the facts
    • Prevent a sales decline
    • Instill consumer confidence in Foster Farms
  • Key Message Points:
    • High path H5N1 strain never existed in U.S.
    • Not possible to get AI from eating properly cooked poultry
    • Foster Farms products are safe to eat – have not been exposed to H5N1 AI.
    • Foster Farms flocks heavily protected from AI risk
foster farms case study part 4
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 4
  • Proactive Outreach Plan:
    • AI facts and background information were placed on two new company Web sites
    • Consumer and media relations campaign:
      • Ranch tours, interviews, opinion editorials, B-roll
      • Foster Farm veterinarians participated on

industry and regulatory panels, seminars

      • Foster Farms held consumer and employee

meetings (to enlist ambassadors of business)

      • Developed a series of strategic “What If”

scenarios and contingency response statements

      • General questions were referred to industry

associations and UC Davis AI disease experts

foster farms case study part 5
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 5
  • Rapid Implementation:
    • Articles secured in local California newspapers
    • Program expanded to entire West Coast
    • Outreach went national (USA Today/CNN/LA Times)
    • Foster Farms activated English and Spanish Q&A Web sites
    • News releases were distributed announcing the availability of above information
    • Retailer/foodservice customer materials were produced and circulated
foster farms ai tv news coverage
Foster Farms AI TV News Coverage

Ranch Biosecurity B-Roll Tape Veterinarian Spokesperson

KSEE-TV (NBC Fresno) April, 28, 2006

Northwest Cable News April 14, 2006

KXTV (ABC Sacramento) March 13, 2006

KXTV (ABC Sacramento) November 23, 2005

KNTV (NBC Bay Area) November 18, 2005

foster farms case study part 6
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 6
  • Results:
    • Program judged a success by the client, U.S. sales were unaffected
    • Noticeable change in media perceptions
    • Positive message points carried in extensive media coverage – shift from widespread alarm, to balanced coverage, to trusted brand doing the right thing.
    • Foster Farms portrayed as Industry “Leader” for AI preparedness (USA Today: “Poultry Farm Tactics May Thwart Bird Flu”)
    • Spike in Web site visits, decline in consumer calls
    • Recognition that U.S. poultry industry was guarding its flocks and ensuring public welfare
foster farms case study part 7
Foster Farms Case Study – Part 7
  • Perception Changes Due to Education

and Information:

(A leading university conducted a study in 2006 after the media information plan was implemented)

    • Only 15% felt AI was in already in U.S. (45% thought so before)
    • 73% now believed AI had not been found in U.S.
    • Only 15% were very concerned about the spread of AI in U.S. (before, 48% believed they were in serious and imminent danger)
    • 43% believed that the spread of AI among chickens or farm-raised poultry was “not likely”
workplace scenarios 1
Workplace Scenarios -1
  • Be prepared and ready to communicate: get out

in front, with:

    • Management
    • All-employees
    • The media
    • Other key stakeholders
  • Enlist support of independent, third-party experts
  • Engage the senior management team:
    • Establish plan, keep it current, conduct practice exercises
  • Develop strategy, messages, priorities, options
  • Prepare scenarios and trigger points
pandemic communications tools
Pandemic Communications Tools
  • Resources:
    • Check key national Web sites: USDA, WHO, FDA, CDC, as well as local and state health agency sites
    • New Jersey Department of Health/Senior Services Influenza Pandemic Plan (See the “Communications” Section)
    • Sample crisis planning outline and template, go to: (
summary 1
Summary - 1

Pre-Crisis Planning:

  • Draft a crisis plan
  • Form an Emergency Management Team
  • Utilize independent, third-party expertise and

seek input, and partnerships, from outside source

(local/state/federal, academia)

  • Be prepared to communicate openly and honestly
  • Plan to manage fears, rumors, misconceptions head on
  • Develop “What If” scenarios, contingency plans,

message points, positioning statements as topics arise

  • Conduct table top exercises
  • Plan to be responsive to media
  • Train key spokespersons in handling media, crisis issues
summary 2
Summary - 2

During a Crisis…

  • To the extent possible… be proactive, not reactive
  • Implement crisis plan, and modify it for changing

conditions, new scenarios

  • Provide management and technical spokespersons
  • Address media needs and requests: grant interviews/access, respond to press calls, follow up
  • Give accurate, factual answers and information
  • Ensure that actions track closely with public statements
  • Ensure that messages are credible and “ring true”
  • Show concern for consumers, the public, stakeholders
  • Take appropriate measure of responsibility
  • Have separate plan to move forward with your business
thank you
Thank You

Are There Any Questions?