By: Godfrey Adejumoh
Communications Strategist

The most challenging part of a PR job is crisis management, especially when it involves government and its regulatory agencies. No matter the size of your organization, its contributions to the economy and shared value creation notwithstanding, with government, you cannot win, especially in this clime.

With this in mind, what must NBC do from a PR perspective to manage the ongoing crisis of benzoic acid, found in its Fanta and Sprite Products?  Below are my five quick wins to overcome this challenge:

Address the public and all stakeholders formally: This is the first step to take in appeasing and calming the nerves of stakeholders. A formal statement from NBC should be released immediately to the general public, regulators (NAFDAC, CPC and SON) and the Government (the Federal Ministry of Health). This is not a sign of weakness but a demonstration of the highest level of regards to all stakeholders concerned. Above all, this will mean taking ownership of the subject and showing willingness to deal with the issue decisively.

Stakeholders Management: This is one of the strongest weapons of Public Relations. Having mapped out the critical stakeholders to be Government, regulators, general public amongst others like the media, practical steps must be taken for engagement. The sessions of engagement must be at the topmost echelon of both parties. During these sessions the nitty-gritty of the issues are discussed in details with a view to resolving it as quickly as possible. This being a matter of public health must be done with utmost transparency for the purpose of integrity and the safety of consumers.

Demystify the benzoic acid: NBC should make deliberate efforts to demystify what this benzoic acid is. The simple way to achieve this is to organize a facility visit and engage experts in the medical field and scientist to do a proper analysis of what this acid is. Information they say is power. If the public is well informed through experts opinion on what the acid is, its toxicity capacity or otherwise the fear that currently reside in virtually all Nigerians will be allayed. Keeping mute and letting people know about it, through social media or self-knowledge cannot be the same as when experts enlighten the public about it through traditional and online media platforms.

Engage the media: The media is not referred to, as members of the Fourth Estate realm as a cliché. They exist for a reason and remain the strongest weapon of information dissemination especially in crisis management. NBC should carry the media along every step of the way as they go through the different stages of the crisis management. The interesting part is that the media is a solution tool and a strategic partner to addressing critical issues that will provide clarity, allay public fear and avoid panic and public distrust for the NBC brand. This is not the time for a gag order. This is not the time to avoid calls from the media; this is not the time to treat the media as a separate and irrelevant entity. They exist for this purpose and they are an integral part in winning this battle. What is important is that all messages from NBC to the media must be single minded in communication.

Assurance: Closely following the media engagement is a message of assurance from NBC to all stakeholders, government, regulators, the media and general public. This is best achieved through a demonstration of the products safety through public consumption and endorsement by the regulators (NAFDAC, CPC and SON) and other critical stakeholders. This presents an opportunity for the organization to demonstrate its relentless and unflinching commitment to Nigeria and Nigerians. Reinstating, how they have been doing this and remain committed to providing Nigerians with products that are assured of the highest quality anywhere in the world.