Have to love a CEO who makes ice cream, and says he’s sorry in a crisis


What’s not to like about ice cream? OK, too much deliciousness adds L-Bs. But we still enjoy it — operative word being “joy.”

That may be, at least in part, why we like the effort by Blue Bell Creameries of Brenham, TX, surrounding its recall of all its products due to bacterial contamination that sickened people in Kansas. With warmer weather arriving and Blue Bell selling products in 23 states — it’s the nation’s third-largest ice cream producer — this is a major hit for the company.

One proven way out of a crisis like this, especially a public product recall covering half the country, is to speak out, take responsibility, pledge and then deliver improvement and apologize. It often earns a public benefit of the doubt.

President and CEO Paul Kruse issued a 36-second video apology yesterday. Even it is folksy and sincere, looking like it was filmed a little hastily in the company’s office lobby as cars pass by outside. But it works.

kruseIce cream is often regional, due to realistic limits on shipment durations, and I’ve never enjoyed Blue Bell, which was founded in 1907. I’m a Perry’s fan, but Ben & Jerry’s, Schrafft’s and even Breyer’s in a pinch, are also memorable. Who doesn’t love ice cream?

That’s why Kruse’s apology works. No nonsense. We screwed up. You need to be able to trust our products. Ice cream, he said, “should be a joy and a pleasure to eat.” He notes he eats some daily. [I’m one of you. I could have caught this too.]

He concludes: “We’re going to get this right.”

He’s genuine, humble and present. He didn’t send out a spokesman. He faced the issue head on.

“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are safe,” Kruse said in a statement.

This is the Tylenol strategy, which has recently been showing signs of age — and ageist — but it works here. Honest, forthright, determined.

“We are heartbroken about this situation and we apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem,” Kruse said.

I’m smiling all the way to the freezer.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

 

Advertisements

About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Have to love a CEO who makes ice cream, and says he’s sorry in a crisis

  1. JasMollica says:

    Hi Steve,

    I saw this shared on Twitter and wanted to respond, since I respectfully disagree. It’s my opinion that we shouldn’t be celebrating what Blue Bell has done here. Frankly, Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse’s video response came as too little, too late. Three people have died from listeria.

    Over the last few months, I have read the same type of wording from Kruse, or a spokesperson, that says, “We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers.” Blue Bell has done little, that I can find, to reach out to the families. Being heartbroken, in a statement, is hollow.

    Lastly, to compare this to what James Burke did during the Tylenol recall is like comparing apples and oranges. Burke was up front, transparent, and showed true leadership during that time… and they put their customers first. Kruse and Blue Bell have stayed behind statements, which don’t show leadership during a crisis. It shows a company that is out of touch with the times, and with crisis PR.

    • Excellent points and I appreciate the perspective. I knew the recall went back to March, but did not realize that he’d made previous statements. Thanks for pointing it out and taking the time. Adds a lot to the discussion.

      • JasMollica says:

        Hi Steve,
        Thanks for the reply. I’ve been following this since the initial recall because I like to see how companies react to crisis.
        I hope that when we discuss situations like these as pros, we can show colleagues the good and the bad, and ultimately help to educate them on how to properly react.
        CHEERS!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s