By Mark Blackham, Blackland PR

"Concern over reputation impact is the major reason companies hesitate and quibble over recalls. They need not worry.

In the UK TV reality show Gogglebox, two sisters watched a news item about a nationwide recall of a beloved chocolate bar. Within minutes the newly-hungry pair had found the bars in their kitchen and were devouring the recalled product.

Consider also, Samsung’s exploding Note 7 back in 2016. It was labelled a PR disaster that could ruin the company, with one pundit predicting at least half of the users would switch brands. Yet one year later, Samsung’s sales and brand reputation were higher than before the recall.

Customers are resilient and tolerant. They can handle the truth and work out what to do next.

Customers can also be disinterested and inflexible in purchasing habits. They’re often not listening to you, and even if they do, their behaviour is unlikely to change.

Make no mistake, the PR risks are real: delays or obfuscation can result in very annoyed customers who can make your life hell or change loyalties. But this is usually in response to how you communicate – it’s very rarely directly related to the fault at the heart of the recall.

The first challenge is what conditions should trigger a recall.  Many product issues are not transgressions of the law (such as the food safety), and even if they are, can be confined to a few individual products, not whole batches or product lines. The government has guides to help you decide, and an external advisor can bring perspective to your in-house anguish.

The next challenge is how to conduct a recall. The obvious step is to communicate with your distribution chain and customers where you have individual records. The member-based organisation, GS1, has an excellent recall system you can use.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Trade Standards arm of MBEI each have a guide to logistics and communication. These appear prescriptive but are not necessarily legally binding.

If you’re still worried, check out www.recalls.govt.nz/. The high number and wide range of recalled products will ease your mind. With some smart management, it’s unlikely to mean the end of your business.”