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Public Trust Crisis Communications Preparedness Plan

The Challenge: Canada’s food system is rapidly evolving, and the opportunities for agri-business are growing nationally and globally. As the industry becomes more complex and diverse, the probability of an emergency event increases exponentially. Emergency events in food contamination, animal welfare, environmental disasters, etc. are becoming more and more commonplace. Whether on the farm, in processing or at the grocery store, an emergency event can quickly become a full-blown crisis, implicating an entire sector or even Canada’s food system as a whole.

Each time this happens, it challenges the trust that consumers and commercial customers have in the food chain, from retail shelves and restaurant menus all the way back to the producer.

Foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreaks can seriously impact a commodity’s social license. In addition to the loss of public trust, multiple stakeholders within Canada’s agri-food value chain, including producers, governments, suppliers, peer commodities require effective and timely communications.

Operating in this environment, Manitoba Pork was feeling an urgent need to prepare for events as such, which will more than likely affect the industry in the near future.

The Solution: Creating and working collaboratively with a Crisis Task Force working group, we developed a thorough Crisis Communications Preparedness Plan. The plan was organized into major sections, including pre-, during and post-crisis. Due to the complex nature of an FAD, it outlined the communications path for multiple stakeholders’ involvement. Key messaging, holding statements, press release templates, speaking notes, anticipated media questions, monitoring systems, topic experts, communications support members, existing topic media coverage, and other materials were developed and included in the plan.

The Outcome: Manitoba Pork is far more prepared thanks to the collaborative plan development process and the plan itself. The Crisis Task Force meets regularly to refresh and continues to prepare for possible future crises.