Product recalls are a troubling incident for any CPG company. They can damage not only the health of consumers but also the image and reputability of the brand. Furthermore, more often than not, product recalls around children’s and infant’s products receive widespread attention from both concerned parents and news media. During these times, companies should be able to respond with established protocol and crisis communications plans. However, instead of merely reacting to a crisis, today’s companies can monitor, predict, or even avert crises using social data. Our study of children’s product recalls in the U.S. and Canada over the past half-year shows you how.
A Traditional Approach to Crisis Communications Plans
Let’s first look at an example of a tried-and-true crisis communications plan that we found on our dashboard.
When thousands or tens of thousands of articles, blog posts, or social media posts about a product are being made, identifying top keywords allows companies to get a macro view of the situation in seconds. When it comes to children’s product recalls, social media often reveals the most about consumer attitudes.
Let’s look at the word “asbestos.”
The report around the “asbestos” reveals the trajectory of related conversations, which peaked in October 2019.
The top posts during this peak were about Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, a sample of which had tested positive for asbestos.
The timeline for the keyword “Johnson,” referring to Johnson & Johnson, has a nearly identical conversation timeline as that of “asbestos” (pictured above).
During this time, the sentiment associated with the brand was mostly negative.
A Reactive Crisis Communications Plan
The company decided to recall 33,000 bottles of its baby powder. This move rightly demonstrated Johnson & Johnson’s devotion to the safety of its consumers.
After the recall, the company tested the product through multiple third-party labs, which turned up clean. Johnson & Johnson then issued a public statement on its website. This news was covered by outlets such as the New York Times and Business Insider. The company moved quickly to clear their names and restore consumer confidence. This is an excellent example of a crisis management plan that reacts to an ongoing crisis and quickly amends the situation.
However, the new age of social data gives companies a new approach.
Pinpoint Your Audience’s Sources of Information
When it comes to children’s product recalls, the conversation moves quickly. Concerned parents will act immediately and share information with fellow parents or, perhaps, an online community of parents. Social data analysis allows us to know where parents are most likely to turn for information.
Traditional news media, including TV and radio, report on children’s products recalls the most. It is highly likely that parents first turn to news sources for the most up-to-date information on product recalls. The next top sources are Twitter, blogs, and forums. In these informal digital spaces, parents are more likely to share and read opinions. Being able to crawl and monitor these digital sources keeps companies one step ahead of crises and allows them to address product issues or questions proactively.
Here’s an example of how.
Identifying Potential Risks for Product Recalls Before It Snowballs
A top hashtag about product recalls for baby products is “anaphylaxis,” which refers to a severe allergic reaction.
The top posts with this hashtag demonstrate two instances of unanticipated food allergies from packaged products.
The first instance involves vegan Magnum Ice Cream.
The caption points out that the box did indeed have a “May Contain Milk” label that the buyer did not see. The good news is that the company did not violate labeling regulations. However, this case should encourage the company to make the label more prominent on the packaging.
Although not pictured, the second product in question is a Ring Pop (see caption).
The user states that the product was not labeled with a “May Contain…” statement. This puts the company at an increased risk of future allergic reactions, as well as legal repercussions.
Both of these posts are from an Instagram account called @redsneakersforoakley, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and raising awareness about food allergies. Careful monitoring of similar accounts or blogs gives companies an edge about potential product recalls that might endanger public health.
Develop Crisis Communications Plans That Look Ahead
Today’s consumers turn to digital communities and influencers for information or advice on products, especially when it comes to product recalls. Although companies tend to emphasize a post-crisis communications plan, today’s digital landscape paves the way for teams to monitor, predict, or even avert crises. To learn about a real-life scenario in which Synthesio helped a global corporation recover from a significant crisis, download our newest case study here.