Communications saved Maple Leaf during listeriosis crisis


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Terry Flynn, assistant professor of communication management, DeGroote School of Business. File Photo. “]Maple Leaf Food's timely and frequent communications during this summer's listeriosis crisis allowed the company to recover consumer confidence a new study released today has shown.

The study was a joint effort between crisis communications expert Terry Flynn, assistant professor of communications management, DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University and Dave Scholz, Vice President, Leger Marketing. The study demonstrates, for the first time, in tangible quantitative terms the positive impact of immediate crisis communications on consumers.

Examining awareness, believability, purchase intent, and reputation among 4,600 Maple Leaf customers before, during, immediately after the crisis and then again one month and four months later, and going beyond simple correlations, “the survey clearly demonstrates that relationships enhance business continuity during a crisis,” noted Scholz.

“The results show that Maple Leaf Foods' immediate reaction-both what they did and how-to the listeriosis outbreak proved extremely helpful in efforts to re-establish trust and credibility with consumers while rebuilding their customers' desire to do business with Maple Leaf Foods,” stated Flynn.

Just three days into the crisis, Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain made a direct appeal to consumers through a television commercial that aired on all major Canadian networks. Flynn's and Scholz's study showed that consumers who saw the commercial had a higher opinion of Maple Leaf as compared to those who did not.

The study compared people who had a good opinion of the company and people who had a less favourable opinion of the company. In both cases, scores rose when consumers had viewed the commercial in which McCain took responsibility for the crisis and apologized. These results validate the strategy that transparent, genuine, credible, timely, and frequent communications to an organization's stakeholders will help that organization recover quicker from a high-profile and prolonged crisis.

“The personal leadership exhibited by Michael McCain demonstrated trust in the company and believability that Maple Leaf Foods was doing the right thing,” stated Dr. Flynn. “Through effective use of communications, Mr. McCain became highly trusted and established the company's organizational values in a manner that resonated with both consumers and those who had not purchased the company's products.”