by Brenda Timm

The dreaded food recall. As we’ve seen in the past, it’s something that can quickly escalate into a PR disaster.

But when handled in a timely, effective and forthcoming fashion, these types of situations can be much easier for companies to bounce back from.

Consider the recent Beech-Nut case as an example. After a report of a single incident of glass found in a jar of baby food, the company took action and made it all about consumer safety. It issued a voluntary recall for that particular product even though the incident was believed to be isolated and then put together a mini website ( filled with information.

Anticipating the type of concerns consumers might have, the site includes a Q&A section and highlights a large graphic of the product complete with label, affected dates and lot codes. Within the web content, Beech-Nut encourages people to return any products in question for a refund or replacement and also lists a Consumer Help Line.

The PR effort doesn’t stop there. To help get the word out, Beech-Nut posted the voluntary recall on many of its social pages. A Facebook post has since received hundreds of comments, and the company continues to provide individual – versus “canned” – responses to them. In instances where comments have been less than favorable, Beech-Nut asks the person who posted to reach out for further discussion.

As a result of Beech-Nut’s approach to the recall, some customers have voiced their displeasure, but many others have responded by 1) thanking the company for taking these precautionary measures and 2) expressing their ongoing support.

In a situation that could have easily left a bad mark on the company’s reputation, what can the way Beech-Nut handled this recall teach us about good PR and damage control?

First off, have a PR plan in place and be honest and upfront. Beech-Nut did so by sharing all the facts with consumers through multiple channels, explaining exactly what was going on and apologizing for the incident. Secondly, put the customer first. This was achieved by issuing the recall itself and showing genuine concern for any families who may be affected. Another PR “rule” Beech-Nut followed? Always keep the lines of communication open.