What ITC did right in its Crisis Management
Crisis management is akin to ‘firefighting’ in the Corporate arena. It is when you try to mitigate instant damage to your company’s reputation built over the years. If done right, it can be just the ticket in a PR professional’s career. If handled sloppishly, it can do long term harm to a brand. For instance, Nestle Maggi’s sales dropped 20 per cent year on year because of the lead in noodle scandal.
Earlier this year, an old fake video spread like wildfire on social media claiming that the ITC’s Aashirvaad brand had mixed plastic in its flour. The video got the multi-billion Corporate’s crisis management team in full swing. It seemed that ITC had learnt its lessons from Nestle's Maggi crisis.
What ITC did right:
- Quick Mover: According to the company, the first video claiming presence of plastic in Aashirvaad Atta appeared in July 2017. It was telecast on a local TV channel in Siliguri, West Bengal. The Company officials quickly took notice of the matter and contacted the channel, asking them to withdraw it.
- Legal Action: As soon as the video got viral on WhatsApp and Facebook, the Company lodged police complaints in three cities including Kolkata, Hyderabad and Delhi. They also moved the City Civil Court in Bengaluru and won a restraining order against anyone circulating such videos.
- Widespread Media Coverage: Through its legal course of action, the Company succeeded in garnering enough media attention with an almost daily coverage in newspapers.
- Advertising Campaign to win trust of consumers: ITC launched an advertising campaign on TV countering the allegations (https://youtu.be/YBA_tXKsDB0). With a rational appeal, it tried to establish that what is being called as plastic is in fact a wheat protein known as Gluten which is naturally found in wheat flour. To build trust and a two-way communication the ad concluded by providing a tollfree number urging consumers to get in touch with the brand respresentatives regarding any complaints or clarifications.
- Putting up a strong case online: On the home page of its website - http://www.aashirvaad.com/, the Company posted detailed Q&A that dispelled the rumours and myths around the controversy. It also posted videos from experts as well as sample test reports from FSSAI Notified External Labs.
- Being on the right side of the Food Regulators: Hemant Malik, ITC Divisional Chief Executive (Foods) was quoted in newspapers stating that “even FSSAI mandates that wheat flour should contain a minimum of six per cent gluten, which is wheat protein, on a dry weight basis. Indian wheat typically has 9-10 per cent gluten. We urge our consumers not to be misled by false and malicious videos. ” ITC openly made claims that were in line with Indian food regulators. Unlike Nestle Maggi they appeared to be right by being on the right side of the regulators.
Ms. Chhavi Bakaria
Department of Communication Studies