Does it sometimes feel like new hot-button topics arrive every day? Probably because they do. By the news media. By special-interest advocates. By mainstream consumers. Staying ahead of them is essential for companies in food and agriculture. Whether it’s participating in a discussion on a relevant topic, or introducing a topic yourself, inaction is almost always the greatest risk.

Effective crisis management and crisis communications are, of course, only one benefit of taking positive action. A clear policy platform with proactive talking points on new and emerging issues will also establish your position as a respected thought leader.

Even as you read this, many topics—some expected and others impossible-to-anticipate—may be surfacing. Here are five considerations for putting together that crisis communication plan and proactive policy platform.

  1. The best time to have the answer is before you’re asked a question. Since you’re a consumer, too, it pays to think like one and anticipate topics relevant to food and agriculture. Work to understand why consumers—and often advocacy groups—have introduced them. It isn’t necessary to agree. Understanding, however, is critical. A great example: When Burger King introduced its Impossible Whopper with plant-based patty, the company made it clear its motivation was consumer demand.
  2. Participating in discussions keeps you from being on the outside looking in. Until you join the conversation, you will forever be an outsider who’s often viewed as an enemy-in-waiting, especially by advocacy groups with grass-roots support. Leverage your digital channels—or establish them if you haven’t yet—to help educate those interested in the discussion and understand their viewpoint.

  1. Being brutally honest with yourself is always the best policy. Look closely at your brand and any “warts” it may have, particularly in the eyes of those consumers and advocacy groups driving the discussion. Though it may seem counterintuitive, negatives are often a great reason to engage. Make sure your messaging strategy puts you in a position to define and own your message before a topic evolves into an issue and defines itself.
  2. “What if” always trumps “what now.” What’s your nightmare scenario? Every organization has one. Among the chief benefits of identifying “what if” topics early is to recognize and prevent their evolution into a full-blown crisis. When developing a discussion-engagement strategy and specific messaging, accounting for even the most nightmarish of scenarios can make all the difference.
  3. Hold crisis input workshops, map first-60-minute timelines and take other essential preparedness steps. Roles and responsibilities of team members. Basics of messaging. Guidelines for media communications. Crisis management team checklists. We’ve included all these—and much more—in the detailed plans we’ve put into action for our clients, both before and during an event.

Gone are the days when managing issues was the sole purview of consumer-facing brands during hair-on-fire emergencies. The food system is changing at warp speed and it’s essential for companies to partner with firms like ours that specialize in identifying and managing even the most contentious scenarios. We’re ready and eager to help you identify and manage them successfully.

To talk specifics, contact Mark Gale at mark.g@co-nxt.com.

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