Managing A Crisis

It’s funny how some things stick with you throughout your life, no matter how long ago you experienced them. One of the most memorable quotes I ever heard came from a representative of Pepsi-Cola Co. at a 1997 seminar on crisis management. “When I talk about dealing with a crisis, I’m talking about when you go through one,” said the speaker. “Because, unfortunately, the reality is you probably will.”

I was vividly reminded of this comment during my winter month travels. Like many of you, I was flying to one of the winter ag equipment shows during this year’s infamous Valentine’s Day snowstorm, which severely hampered air travel across much of the country. The most notorious example of the delays this caused involved JetBlue, which spent the better part of two weeks trying to work its way through a serious crisis with customers, employees, and shareholders. The jury is still out whether the company will ultimately overcome this incident.

During my time in the beverage industry, I remember two high profile crisis management incidents taking place. One involved the discovery of benzene in bottles of Perrier sparkling water in 1990. The other concerned the alleged finding of hypodermic needles in cans of Diet Pepsi in 1993. In the long run, both provided important lessons in how to handle (and not to handle) a crisis. First, let’s review Perrier.

When the benzene was found in bottles in North Carolina, the company spent several days denying there was a problem (and even accusing the U.S. authorities that did the testing of having a French bias). Once convinced of the problem, Perrier spent several more days shifting from explanation to explanation before finally issuing a product recall of 160 million bottles.

On the other hand, Pepsi immediately acknowledged the Diet Pepsi problem, investigated, found evidence of a hoax, and spent the next few weeks rebuilding the brand’s image.

This led to Pepsi developing what it called a Crisis Management blueprint. It spelled out the “seven deadly sins” of crisis management. These were chaos (no one taking charge), poor communication, having multiple point persons, lack of trained back-ups, making assumptions, making accusations, and neglecting day-to-day business during the emergency.

To avoid these missteps, Pepsi suggested the following seven solutions:

1). Clearly define lines of authority.
2). Plan an appropriate order for contacting accounts and employees.
3). Appoint one person at each location as the primary point person.
4). Train back-ups to step in when the primary person is unavailable.
5). Make decisions on facts only.
6). Perform disciplinary action through appropriate channels.
7). Day-to-day operations should continue as normal.

As a measure of the effectiveness of these steps, consider the fact that Diet Pepsi can be found in any store in America today. The same can’t be said for Perrier.

With retailers entering their busiest time of year, the chance for a crisis is there. It would wise to heed Pepsi’s warning and plan ahead, incorporating some of these crisis management steps into your operations. As Perrier proved, businesses are easy to ruin if management mishandles a crisis.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
ManagementTrip Report, PSM R.I.P, and Ag’s Reaction to Federal Bu…
May 25, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent travels, the end for Process Safety Management (PSM), and how Read More
Corn soil
LegislationARA Member Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee
May 25, 2017
Agricultural retailers stand on the front-lines of the American economy. As trusted advisors to America’s farmers, ag retailers are uniquely Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsFortenza Insecticide Seed Treatment Receives EPA Regist…
May 25, 2017
Fortenza seed treatment insecticide from Syngenta has received registration approval from the U.S. EPA for use on corn and cotton Read More
ManagementFarm Market iD’s Agriculture Database Now Covers More T…
May 25, 2017
Farm Market iD, farmmarketid.com, has announced the release of its 2017 Annual Update of its farm and land database. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Precision AgThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Seed/BiotechKansas State University Researchers Find New Pathogens …
May 24, 2017
A single seed seems so simple. Put it in the ground, give it some care, and you’ve soon grown food. Read More
Soybean Field
HerbicidesNew Dicamba Herbicide Premix Coming Soon from Syngenta
May 24, 2017
Syngenta has announced the name of its new herbicide featuring the active ingredients of S-metolachlor and dicamba. Upon registration by Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Launches New Seed Treatment Fungicide
May 22, 2017
Syngenta has announced the launch of PLENARIS seed treatment fungicide for the control of downy mildew in sunflower. PLENARIS contains Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsMonsanto’s First HPPD Herbicide Garners EPA Appro…
May 19, 2017
Monsanto announced today that EPA has federally approved Harness MAX Herbicide, the first herbicide in the Monsanto portfolio to provide Read More
ManagementPrecision Planting Deal, China Developments, and Enviro…
May 18, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Dan Jacobs discuss the latest news on John Deere’s now dead deal for Precision Planting, China’s Read More
Soybean aphid leaf
InsecticidesMulti-state Research Reveals IPM Best Option for Treatm…
May 17, 2017
About 89.5 million acres of soybeans will be planted across the U.S. in 2017 — a record high, according to Read More
GROWMARK-2017-Interns
CropLife 100GROWMARK Names 2017 Summer Interns
May 16, 2017
Forty-two college students are exploring agricultural career opportunities this summer as GROWMARK interns. They are working at FS member cooperatives Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Ag…
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
FertilizerBoth Wet and Dry Conditions Threaten Nitrogen Loss
May 15, 2017
The weather is notoriously unpredictable, leading to challenges for planting, harvesting and applying the nitrogen (N) your corn crop needs. Read More
farmer Kip Tom
Precision AgAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
ManagementOpinion: Shaking Your Perspective in Ag Retail
May 12, 2017
Some of you I’m sure have encountered our recently retired salesman extraordinaire, Dan Bellanger. He worked in the industry for Read More