DALLAS – Food manufacturers must be prepared to manage their message and the logistics of a product recall, said speakers at Food Safety: Insights from a Recall, one of the many education seminars offered at the AMI International Expo in Dallas.

Mike Rozembajgier, vice president, recalls, Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS and Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, gave session attendees their insights on how to prepare for a recall and successful strategies to utilize during a recall. Recall rules are changing, and will likely become more complex in the future, Rozembajgier said.

“The laser-focus in Washington on food safety is not going away,” he said.

The goals of any recall should be to protect consumers; protect the brand; protect the environment; reduce corporate risk; and maintain regulatory compliance. Establishing a plan pre-crisis will help companies achieve these goals, Rozembajgier said.

Companies should conduct mock recalls, and regularly review and update recall plans, he said. Also, keep a list of products and know which retailers or business partners carry them. Keep a list of suppliers and know what information you will need from them as well as what information they will require, Rozembajgier added.

Strategies companies can employ to successfully manage a recall include creating proactive solutions that will make it easy for stakeholders to participate in the recall, Grabowski said. Customize the solution – consider refunds, credits, replacement products or repairs.

Collect data in real time, Grabowski said. Thorough and accurate data collection shows due diligence. Also, support regulatory compliance, he said.

“We cannot be arguing with (regulatory agencies) on the phone any more; our attorneys cannot be getting in the way,” Grabowski said. “Let’s make their jobs easier or they’ll sting us.”

Communication with consumers, the media, regulatory agencies and business partners during a recall is crucial. Speed is critical, Grabowski added.

Companies should respond quickly and effectively to consumers and the media. Companies should know who are the prominent bloggers and cultivate them like a traditional media journalist, he said. Bloggers are the assignment editors for mainstream media, Grabowski said, and they consider themselves to be journalists and should be treated as such. Additionally, companies should engage consumers through social media channels such as Facebook, he said. Learn how to produce videos and other images, and make them in advance of a recall; don’t allow outsiders to control images associated with the company or brand, he said.

Consider that the message and messenger are equally important, Grabowski said. Companies should cultivate people internally to do basic messaging, he said. Use a professional media coach for training. Companies must have the right spokespeople, and the spokespeople must be prepared.

“Stop using people in three-piece suits,” Grabowski said. “Stop using farmers in coveralls.”

Companies should avoid using full-page ads to address a recall. Use social media or other platforms instead, because consumers get angry when companies use full-page ads to assign blame.

“The only time you do a full-page ad is when you apologize,” Grabowski said.