What should you do if your company is confronted with false accusations from the media?
Marilyn Dolan, owner of Sacramento, Calif.-based Farmers Communication Exchange LLC, a public relations and social media firm, says the actions taken by Christopher Ranch LLC when the company was accused of a number of shady dealings in a Netflix documentary was the right path to follow.
Among other things, the Gilroy, Calif.-based garlic grower-shipper immediately refuted accusations in a detailed posting on its Facebook page, allowed executive vice president Ken Christopher to respond to all media inquiries and commissioned a videographer to create a video tracing the path its garlic takes from planting to distribution in an effort to show transparency – that the company has nothing to hide.
“I think their messaging on that was really good and very strong,” Dolan says. “Companies should be very vocal about telling the truth when things are not correct.”
Sometimes it’s helpful to recruit a third-party spokesperson, like a scientist, researcher or dietitian to back up your claims about misinformation, she says.
Christopher Ranch had Lori Taylor of The Produce Moms visit the ranch and talk about what she found.
“She has credibility,” Dolan says.
The extent of your response might depend on the source – who is making the accusations and how much reach do they have.
Christopher Ranch was right to counter the Netflix claims because the entertainment company has a high level of credibility, she says.
Overreacting to an allegation from a source that lacks credibility and has limited reach could make matters worse.
“It’s a bit of a challenge to decide if you’re going to say something or not,” Dolan says.
But she does advise responding quickly to negative comments or complaints posted on social media.
The impact of the “fake news” in the Netflix documentary had little if any effect on Christopher Ranch, Cristopher says, and he attributes some of that to the strong, positive reputation the company has built over the years.
Indeed, Dolan says one way to blunt potential fallout from negative news is to create a positive impression of your company before a crisis hits.
Company websites are packed with information about products, Dolan says, but they usually don’t put enough emphasis on the people and where the products come from.
“It’s sometimes really beneficial to introduce people to who you are and talk about where you farm and where you access your product,” she says. “One of the greatest things about the produce industry is the people who work in it.”