January 1, 1970

How to use social media channels in a PR crisis

January 1, 1970

How to use social media channels in a PR crisis

How to use social media channels in a PR crisis

On the 19th of November popular hummus manufacturer Sabra announced a recall of all products with a best before date up to January 2017. The cause of the voluntary recall was the discovery of Listeria at the company's manufacturing plant. Though no trace of the bacteria was found in the actual products themselves, Sabra decided to play it safe and recall any dips that potentially could have been contaminated.What is interesting, is the channels Sabra used to handle this public relations crisis. The U.S based company chose to make the announcement and respond to consumers via digital platforms. It is clear Sabra implemented this digital strategy as social media is a great way to disseminate information and respond to questions, complaints and compliments quickly.Twitter appeared to be their primary social media channel, followed by their website, Facebook and Instagram. We examine each of the Sabra social media accounts during this PR Crisis and evaluate what we can learn from their handling of the recall. Twitter


The statement announcing the recall, published on social media platform Twitter, has had 121 retweets, 41 likes and generated hundreds of Tweets and replies. Sabra had a combination of generic and organic replies that acknowledged consumers were upset, explained why they chose to recall the products and informed them what to do next. Most were referred to a Consumer Information Form.The benefit of generic messages is that they save a huge amount of time as it is unrealistic to personalise every single reply a company gets, especially during a crisis when Tweets are almost non-stop. By using the same responses Sabra avoided straying from the message and getting trapped in unhelpful, ongoing dialogues with upset consumers.When your target market is upset it always pays to have a few organic responses tailored to the individual. Sabra had a few of these replies to show their consumers they care and to convey honesty, transparency and authenticity. These included thanking people who tweeted them stating their loyalty to the brand and acknowledging people who were yet to receive a reply from the company. Facebook


Though it is essential to publish content on your company's social media platforms if you need to make an announcement as significant of this, it is important to remember each channel has its own benefits and challenges and adjust your strategy accordingly.Whilst the predominate advantage (and disadvantage) of Twitter is the speed in which content can be disseminated,the best and worst thing about Facebook is that you do not have a word limit.This was great for Sabra in that they could elaborate certain points but it also hurt them as consumers could write big, long paragraphs about how disappointed they were, share every experience they’ve ever had with food poisoning and wind each other up.When speaking to your consumers it is paramount you maintain your composure, acknowledge their feelings and strive to be as helpful and understanding as possible. Sabra avoided getting defensive, making excuses and didn’t hide negative or misleading comments, allowing their customers to vent. This shows transparency as they will not be seen to be covering things up which is the last thing a company needs in a PR crisis.A few customers were not happy at the speed Sabra was taking to answer their phone calls and emails and posted multiple Facebook comments criticising the company and their response, or lack thereof. Sabra dealt with this with personalised messages asking the disgruntled consumers a direct line of communication. Instagram


Sabra failed to publish the announcement they had pinned to their Facebook and Twitter accounts and clearly displayed on their website, on their Instagram. Perhaps they thought they had it covered but with around 11,200 followers, this was a big mistake. Frustrated Instagram users took to the comment sections of their latest posts to air their grievances. Many were angry Sabra were failing to acknowledge the crisis and their customers feelings on the channel.Sabra did not recognise the importance of one of their social media channels and missed the opportunity to acknowledge the issue before their consumers did. Post important announcements on all your social media platforms so your consumers feel you are taking it seriously and so that you can guide the conversation and make it informative. Pinterest


Whilst Sabra got slammed for failing to acknowledge the recall on their Instagram page, it is understandable that they didn’t post the announcement on their Pinterest. Pinterest is essentially purely visual, Sabra uses it to display how their products can be used with attractive photographs of platters, wraps, pasta, noodles and muffins. As it relies on images it would not be appropriate to post the lengthy statement on this channel. Not only would it look out of place but consumers wouldn’t really be able to ask questions and leave comments as easily as they could on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.When deciding what social media channels to include in an issues and crisis management plan, it is important to determine how much it is used by the target market and if it makes it easy for your company to handle countless complaints and questions, which Pinterest cannot. Website


The official Sabra website changed their SEO title to ‘Sabra Hummus Recall’ as they knew a lot of people would be searching the topic online and likely wanted consumers to hear from them first. A new section was created titled ‘Sabra Hummus Recall’ with the official statement, an image showing customers where to check the use by date, facts about the Listeria monocytogenes organism and a full list of the items that need to be checked.Sabra handled the hummus recall relatively well. There were a few minor slip ups such as not posting the announcement on Instagram but overall the company did as well as can be expected. This recall demonstrates how useful digital channels are in managing communications during a crisis.

  • It’s best to use both generic and personalised responses on Twitter, the more authentic the better but you must prioritise replying to as many people as possible in a short amount of time
  • Facebook needs to be closely monitored and answers need to be more sophisticated as complaints can be more lengthy and detailed than other channels
  • Don’t forget Instagram! If you have a large following on a social media channel then acknowledge the issue on there aswell
  • Establish how effective a social media channel is for responding to an influx of questions and comments before using it as part of your issues and crisis management strategy
  • Make sure your website provides factual information, imagery and instructions that even the most impatient and upset consumer can follow.

Those who purchased and ate the recalled Sabra hummus prior to the announcement had every reason to feel upset and angry, listeria is quite serious. That is why it was so important for the company to deal with this crisis as quickly as possible. By using social media Sabra was able to let people know about the threat and offer a solution before someone else broke the news. Thus displaying how useful digital platforms are in managing communications.