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Small recalls can cause big problems: The importance of preparation and accuracy

While recalls vary widely in their scope and impact, the truth is that there really are no small recalls. When it comes to brand reputation and consumer perception, the scale of a recall often doesn’t matter. One negative media report or one simple mistake can turn a small, seemingly manageable event into a much larger problem. To truly protect their brands, companies need to be prepared for a recall of any size.

A recall plan is the first line of defense during even a relatively small recall, but too often companies view these plans as a box to be checked rather than a roadmap for protecting their brand. A robust, detailed recall plan helps ensure that the first steps are effective and efficient—a one or two-page outline isn’t going to provide the detail necessary to prevent a small, contained event from expanding quickly. Additionally, contingency planning helps companies respond appropriately should a recall evolve or expand. Planning is the best way to make sure a small recall stays that way.

An accurate response is critical to a successfully managed recall. To protect affected consumers and the reputation of their brands, companies must accurately identify affected product, and they need to do it right the first time. If the affected product is inaccurately identified during the critical early days of a recall, a manageable event can quickly start to snowball as steps are repeated and the scale of the event expands. Especially given today’s ever-increasing availability of information, consumers can closely follow both the specifics of a recall event and the company’s response. Any mistake is an opportunity for more media exposure, and accurate product identification, data management and notification are key to avoiding those mistakes.

A small amount of product being recalled in 3 or 4 states might not receive much media attention, but if that recall repeats or expands due to poor planning or processes, it’s much more likely to generate coverage. Unfortunately, media reports often leave out key details and focus on the existence of the recall itself (failing to mention, for example, when there is little to no affected product left in the market). A single mention of a company in the context of a recall can impact a consumer’s perception of that brand, regardless of the specifics. Proper preparation and recall management expertise are the most effective tools for limiting media exposure, which is important in a world where a simple headline can take on a life of its own.

In the absence of detailed planning and expert response, a small recall can rapidly become something much more difficult to manage. With thorough recall preparation, detailed contingency plans and accurate identification, companies can be ready for an event of any size and scope.

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