by Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick’s work with Danone Nutricia continues to receive industry recognition, with a number of global and national awards this year. We were thrilled to be named among the World’s 50 Best PR Programs at the Global SABRE Awards. This followed two Asia Pacific SABRE Awards for Reputation Management and Crisis and Issues Management, as well as previous recognition at both the PRWeek Asia Awards and the IPRA Golden World Awards. We were also recognised at PRIA’s 2014 National Golden Target Awards, with a Highly Commended in the Issues Management/Crisis Communication category.

But what constitutes award-winning work in the complex field of reputation management?

While a major international crisis can signal torrid times ahead for a company of any size, managing reputational risk and ensuring clear and focused communication of messages should be the focus for brands under threat. Our team adopted this approach for Danone Nutricia during the Fonterra botulism scare in 2013.

On Friday, August 2 2013, Weber Shandwick was advised by our client, Danone Nutricia, that some Karicare formulas may have been affected by a potentially contaminated whey protein from major New Zealand supplier, Fonterra.

The crisis team worked through the night to develop media statements and put media monitoring strategies in place. On Saturday August 3, Fonterra issued a media statement highlighting that eight customers, including Danone Nutricia, had been notified of a quality issue involving three batches of a particular type of whey protein.

Our team travelled to New Zealand with Danone Nutricia ANZ MD, Corine Tap, to assist on the ground with a press conference. Ms. Tap was a strong face for the company and consumers during this time of crisis. Danone Nutricia was applauded for its clarity, consistency and compassion (including public media commentary).

Weber Shandwick provided strategic counsel to the local, regional and international Danone Nutricia teams and resources were reallocated throughout the agency to meet the demands of this crisis.

The team identified that Danone Nutricia’s limited activity in the social media space would become a reputational threat and, as such, developed a strong Facebook presence with an officially branded Karicare page. Additionally, the top 10 online influencers were identified and monitored daily with any controversial reporting immediately captured and managed by the collaborative teams. We noticed a spike in traffic to a Facebook protest page and we took a number of approaches to drive traffic to the official Facebook page, which ultimately ceased traffic to the protest page.

On Monday, August 12, Nutricia announced a recall of a specific range of Karicare products. Once again, Corine Tap led the media for Nutricia, remaining clear, open and sincere about the situation and reminding consumers that the safety of babies was Nutricia’s number one priority.

A third press conference on Thursday, August 29, finally saw a positive message for Danone Nutricia’s long-standing customers. Earlier, the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand announced that the botulism contamination in Fonterra’s whey protein did not eventuate and that implicated products were no longer threatened. Simultaneously, Danone Nutricia were pleased to advise that Karicare infant and toddler formulas were safe for consumption and back on shelves.

As soon as the products were cleared and back on the shelves Weber Shandwick developed a brand rebuilding strategy that allowed the public and key stakeholders unprecedented access to the Danone Nutricia plant and Managing Director, and explained the manufacturing process ‘from cow to can’. The intent was to showcase the stringent safety and quality procedures in place.

A key part of this strategy was to hold Open House Factory Tours where the Managing Director led a series of tours around Danone Nutricia’s world-class production facilities in Auckland, New Zealand. The tours held for media, government stakeholders, HCP and the public, incorporated expert overviews and a ‘behind the tin’ look at the blending and packing facilities, testing laboratories and Careline call centre operation.  The tours received widespread positive coverage in consumer and trade media, and demonstrated Danone Nutricia’s commitment to safety, quality and transparency.

Weber Shandwick’s multifaceted crisis communications campaign successfully navigated Danone Nutricia through this crisis of unprecedented scale and duration, earning the agency’s place as a trusted advisor and partner during turbulent times.

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