Pardon the pun, but ever since giving into the trend and purchasing my very own NutriBullet last year, frozen berries and I have formed a pretty close bond. Unlike other fruits, they seem to work perfectly in just about any smoothie combination, not to mention on my morning cereal.

So, I must say I was left with a pretty bad taste in my mouth when earlier this week it was announced that a number of Australians had been diagnosed with Hepatitis A after consuming Nanna’s Frozen Berries. Lucky for me I don’t buy this brand, however there are many who clearly do, with 15 people identified as contracting the disease, while many more are on edge having consumed the berries.

Working in the communications industry we know that brands live or die by their reputation – it’s as simple as that. So, like all other PR professionals, when you see a brand suddenly hit ‘crisis’ mode, you can’t help but notice the positive (or negative) actions they have taken to overcome the situation.

So, under the ever-evolving circumstances, are Patties Foods, owners of Nanna’s Berries, handling the crisis in the best way possible? Firstly, dealing with a crisis this severe is a challenge in itself, but the way you communicate to the people directly impacted is crucial. There are a number of actions Patties Foods could have executed better. Firstly, they took too long to communicate via a statement to the public, and although they recalled the berries (and so they should have), they gave consumers time to think and become angrier about the situation.

Then there was this quality statement….

“Australian growers cannot always provide either the quantity or the quality that we require on an ongoing basis.”

To me (and I think most of Australia) this comes across, mainly, as an excuse to buy from cheaper producers. Sure, it might be a bit more expensive to source locally, but if it’s going to ensure the health of consumers, I think it’s the way to go, especially now that it’s been revealed that even the Chinese prefer not to eat their own berries due to contamination issues.

In my opinion, a crisis is most commonly an issue that has been ignored or not dealt with well, so it’s important to understand the issues that may be impending your company.

So, in a crisis, it’s crucial to remember:

1. Have a crisis management plan in place anticipating the various possible scenarios and the most appropriate responses and tools required, so you’re at least part way prepared before a crisis hits
2. Form a crisis management team, including communications and legal
3. Communicate a response as quickly as possible
4. Be ready to give honest, accurate information
5. Be human – show empathy and genuine concern for the people involved
6. Ensure all staff are across crisis protocols and that your spokesperson is trained to handle the media spotlight

Might be sticking to banana smoothies this week, I think…


They like big butts and they cannot lie