MF Communication is a Belfast PR & Marketing Communications agency that provides corporate and brand PR and Marketing solutions to clients in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Services range from proactive marketing, PR and stakeholder relations to crisis communications and corporate reputation management.

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The Continuity Insights Crisis Communications: Social Media & Notification Systems survey provides unique insight into recent trends and notable changes in the ways that organizations use social media and notification systems to communicate both internally and externally. There is no surprise that the most recent survey reveals that the use of social media as a communications tool continues to grow with organizations are reporting an increased presence on most social media sites, as well as an increased following by the public. Yet despite all this online activity, 60% stated they did not have a social media plan to deal with a PR crisis or major incident if one was to hit their organisation. That's 60% of businesses who are crossing their fingers and hoping that it will never happen to them. But the truth is that in today's always connected, always on world the chances of being caught up in a crisis are more probable that ever before.

Having plans in place for monitoring your online brand or corporate reputation both during normal operations and during crises are crucial. A good crisis plan has three stages: pre-crisis, mid-crisis and post-crisis. The time and attention a company gives to ensuring it is prepared in the pre-crisis phase in my view gives it the best possible chance of success. PR crisis can be overcome with proper preparation and planning. There are plenty of online tools to help companies keep track of mentions online. By imputing the keywords you need to track you can receive notifications of when your brand or company is mentioned, on Twitter for example. But human judgement is also required to ensure that you can reliably understand the sentiment behind the words.

It’s equally important to remember that once you have a response plan in place it needs to be regularly reviewed and rehearsed!

 

It was quite a week for product recalls in the agri-food sector with thousands of products removed from various supermarkets due to Food Standards Agency recall notices about risks of food poisoning, mis-labeling, mis-packaging and potential allergy threats. Topping those headlines is the recall of Camembert due to the potential presence of the Listeria bug which is of particular threat to pregnant women. This includes the Co-Op’s unfortunately branded ‘Truly Irresistible Camembert.’ Going beyond food and we have tumble dryer manufacturers being sued by fire damage victims; slow cookers being removed from sale due to electric shock risks as well as antibiotic creams contaminated by rust and glass.

Recalls can range from the potentially benign, such as produce packaged with an incorrect ‘best before’ date to the more life-threatening, such as allergenic ingredients not being mentioned on the label.  So what is a company to do to protect its hard-brand reputation against the wrath of the consumer when such issues come to light and how does it ensure it can cope with the myriad of messages firing around, some inaccurate; or the media questions that can follow?

Well in the first instance an organization needs to ensures that it has the crisis communications capability in place to withstand a crisis. Making the upfront investment in putting your house in order now will help identify potential weak spots and trouble areas as well as build up a bank of useful resources that can be deployed in times of trouble. With the viral power of the internet at journalists’ and consumers’ disposal, the time it takes for trouble to strike and reach international proportions is a fraction of the time it just took to read this blog post. Thankfully digital communications tools equally present opportunities for companies to take control of crisis communications and ensure they are not caught on the back foot.

 

 

 

I attended the Danske Bank’s Agri Economic Outlook Breakfast in Belfast this morning with fellow members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists. The Kingspan Stadium was the sporty setting for a sobering start to the event at which Danske Bank warned that the NI agri-food sector is facing “multiple threats” in 2016, in particular the pressure on milk prices and uncertainty around a UK exit from Europe – the so-called ‘Brexit’ – of particular concern. The EU is a major export market for NI’s food manufacturers and the bank said a ‘Brexit’ could potentially hinder growth in the local industry if agriculture does not remain a priority sector.

But light at the end of the tunnel was offered by Danske Bank’s Head of Agricultural Relations John Henning who said that with the challenges of 2015 continuing into 2016, the agriculture sector must play to its strengths, be ambitious and look at innovative new ways of dealing with global price volatility.

Questioning on the pros and cons of ‘Brexit’ was as hearty as the breakfast. But the Bank reassured us that that local farmers and producers are extremely resilient to change and that it is committed to supporting them as they strive to succeed in 2016.”

 Danske Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan, agreed that the global picture is mixed for the agri-food industry as a whole. She said: “Danske Bank is forecasting growth of around 1.9 per cent for the agriculture sector over the course of the next year and around 1.2 per cent in 2017. We expect the global economy to grow by 3.3 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent next year as the world’s largest economies continue to grow. Chinese growth is expected to stabilise at 6.7 per cent and the US should grow by roughly 2.5 per cent. It is encouraging too that one of our main export markets, the Republic of Ireland, is now the fastest growing economy in Europe.”

“However, we have had a volatile start to the year in global markets and the strength of sterling against the euro means there continues to be pressure on local exporters. Milk prices, like most commodities, continue to be depressed and that shows no sign of changing in the short term.  However Danske Bank anticipates commodities in general to stabilise in the second half of this year.

“A potential Brexit could also have a bigger impact here than in Scotland, England and Wales as...

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