TUCKER, Ga. – While addressing professionals from the US poultry industry who had recently gathered at the 2011 Communications Strategies Workshop in Atlanta, Ga., Alan Sterling, director of marketing for Wayne Farms LLC, said crisis response and crisis communication are linked by process and policy. The US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) sponsored the conference.

An overview of Wayne Farms' crisis management plan was provided in his presentation.

"Our crisis-management plan comes from the top down, and solutions come from the bottom up,” he said. “The processes are in place, and we train against it."

Sterling's presentation focused on crisis events and covered a six-step process: identification, collection, notification, analysis, communications and monitoring/assessment.

A presentation titled Community Outreach...Spreading Your Positive Message was given by Mike Martin, director of communications for Cargill Inc. Martin discussed the beef article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that led to Cargill being featured on the Oprah Winfrey show earlier this year. He also described the process of preparing for the Oprah Winfrey feature on Cargill. There were 7.3 million households that saw the first airing of the Oprah Winfrey show, with two subsequent viewings, and questioned what it would take to reach 7.3 million households otherwise. Martin said.

"Our goal was to tell our story in a transparent manner,” he added. "If we are brave and we have a good story to tell, we should do it. I think we have a lot of good stories to tell in animal agriculture that do not get told as often as they should be."

In conclusion, Martin said you have to be prepared, realize there are risks and be aware it is not always going to turn out the way you want.