It's not uncommon for the overall health of an industry to be threatened by a few bad actors.
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The pattern has been repeated time and time again in a wide variety of industries, from the cemetery industry to pet food manufacturing to investment banking.
The crisis begins with one or two rogue companies abusing the public trust. The public generalizes that bad behavior to the entire industry. Legislators start to crack down. Business dries up as headaches soar.
If you're caught in this vicious cycle, you need to get your industry association to execute its crisis PR plan and issue a standard crisis press release.
The messaging goes like this: 1) only a few bad actors caused this problem – this is not representative of the industry; 2) customers can continue to do business with the industry without any concerns; 3) as an industry, we take what has happened very seriously and we are taking steps to ensure that this will not happen again.
Here's a sample release, from 2008, in which an industry association went on the record using the crisis messaging framework outlined above. While it's only one part of an overall crisis communications plan, this example crisis press release is fairly effective.
Nebraska Soybean Association Condemns Animal Abuse Depicted in PETA Video
LINCOLN, NE -- The Nebraska Soybean Association has condemned the abuse of animals depicted in the video of a Bayard, Iowa, hog facility released yesterday by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA.) Pork production is a major customer of the soybean industry, consuming millions of bushels of soybeans and soybean meal annually.
"It is unfair to give the entire pork industry a black eye because of a handful of bad actors. The individuals to blame should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," said Debbie Borg, an Allen, Nebraska soybean producer and president of the Nebraska Soybean Association. "The deliberate abuse of any animal is unacceptable."
Borg said that the continued distribution of "gotcha' videos of the rare producers who manage their animals poorly—many of which are staged—is eroding public trust in livestock production. "When regulations are created based on the perceptions created by these images, it simply makes it more difficult for the majority to do business," she said.
Borg added that the pork industry has developed its own high standards for the humane care and handling of animals, including the Pork Quality Assurance Plus Program, created with the assistance of leading animal scientists, veterinarians and retail customers. "The vast majority of livestock farmers place a high priority on the health and well being of the animals in their care,'" she added. "We know that quality care produces healthy animals which leads to our ultimate goal of providing healthy, safe and wholesome food."
The Nebraska Soybean Association (NSA) is the membership organization representing Nebraska soybean producers. NSA, in conjunction with the American Soybean Association, represents the state and federal policy interests of soybean growers.