Using Social Media in a Recall

If you’ve been following these posts I’ve shared, I recently posted the story about working through the public outcry when we brought back plastic bags to some of our stores.  A similar, but in many ways different, example of this was the XL beef recall last September.

If the early days of our foray into Facebook, we didn’t post information about recalls.  At the time – spring 2010, which is a 100 years ago in social media – we left the spread of information to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the media.

Since then, we have taken to being as transparent as possible and sharing information as soon as it’s available with our customers.

Initially, we were not a part of XL recall so this was the message we communicated via social networks, on the web, in-store and over the phone to our customers.  Our parent company, Sobeys, was affected so there was some confusion with media reports naming Sobeys and not Thrifty Foods, so we were doing our best to clarify this.

As the recall expanded, other cuts of beef were included, and so were we.  After telling our customers we were not affected, we had to do a quick turnaround and tell them some of our stores did have product that was included.

This wasn’t a conversation that was only taking place online – our customer care team was taking dozens of phone calls.  When we found out we were included, customers were skeptical that we were not initially being forthcoming with information (which was not the case, we really did not have indication we were included in the recall), and then we were implicated, even more skepticism came our way.  All our digital properties were being updated to share the story, and support our customer care team in their conversations with our valued customers.

When these recalls happen, we take direction from the CFIA.  We were open and honest with our customers and responded as quickly as possible when we were advised our products were part of the recall.  I spent a Sunday morning at Granville Island tethering my laptop to my phone to update Facebook and our website when we discovered we were affected.

Patience and responsiveness is key – there were many questions to answer, posts to respond to, and social media is not a 9-5 job in cases like these.  As we now know, this was a nationwide public health event, and we did what we could to keep the lines of communication open.

Changing course mid-conversation was challenging but we were sharing the information as it came to us.  Transparency and timeliness are essential when handling a situation like this – knowing you have shared information as quickly and effectively as possible is the only way to get through it.

Sarah Roberts

Sarah Marlayne Roberts is a public relations and digital media strategist based in Victoria, BC. She has extensive marketing, social media, public relations, and special events experience from her work in television (CTV Television, Canadian Idol, Juno Awards, The Bachelor Canada) and with some of Canada’s most vibrant brands including The Edmonton Oilers, the legendary Hudson’s Bay Company and now, Thrifty Foods. Her focus at Thrifty Foods is on the company’s digital presence including the web and social channels, working to reflect the in-store experience online. In her spare (?!) time, Sarah also blogs about pop culture and other stuff you shouldn’t live without at STUFF by Sarah and works with small business clients on maximizing their online presence.

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