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.
Ice 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.