Crisis Management

Is your cannabis brand prepared for a product recall? No one likes to talk about it, but it’s probably not a question of IF, but when. Anyone who has been around consumer products for any period can tell you: product recalls are a fact of life. But for cannabis brands, product recalls are intense because of the regulatory environment and the cost of operating as a cannabis brand. We recently handled crisis communications during a cannabis brand recall. It honored us to be chosen, but it’s never fun to see the immeasurable stress a recall puts on a brand.

Because the cannabis industry is new and highly regulated, and in some locations, a medicinal-only product, cannabis recalls ARE news. A cannabis recall will get local and potentially national media coverage. So, how should cannabis companies prepare for the inevitable recall? In short, these 3 steps will help you tremendously: learn, lean, communicate.

 

Learn the Product Recall Process From Your State Cannabis Regulatory Body

Because the cannabis industry is new, so are the regulatory bodies that oversee them. Keep in mind your cannabis regulation division may not even have staff members who have started a recall. Get ahead of it.

Ask your regulatory body what their process is for recall. Who will be your contact during a call? What will they need and expect from you? How and when will they inform you? What steps will they take to inform the public? What triggers a recall? Who will be audited in a recall (the brand, the testing facility, the retailer)?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you prepare internally. Plus, having an open and engaging relationship with the regulatory body will ease communications during the recall itself.

Lean into Industry Relationships

Ask your retail partners what their internal product recall processes are. The more you know about how they handle and store products, how they prepare their budtenders for product recalls, the better off you’ll be. Find out if you can collaborate with them on budtender communication and customer notification. Be transparent with your retailers about your process too. You should do the same for any other 3rd party in the supply chain: labs and distributors as well. If your product includes any 3rd party ingredients, then communicate with them too. Tell them who they can contact about questions if they’re doing internal planning.

Create a Crisis Communication Plan

Based on how a cannabis recall happens, preparing your internal steps is critical because you can either take the lead or be pummeled. At the very least, define the first 3 external communication steps your brand will take the moment it knows of a potential or actual recall. You should have a single spokesperson identified, while your supporting cast should know their roles and how you will handle the situation internally.

Create plans for at least two scenarios: one for if your processes and/or procedures are at fault, and one plan for if your processes and procedures are not in question.

At the minimum, you should have a statement to your retailers drafted already, as well as a social media post, an email to customers, and a statement for your website. Your spokesperson should undergo crisis communication training, in front of a camera. You can also have a shortlist of local and industry media outlets you will proactively reach out to during the recall to provide a media statement. Be prepared to be nimble during your crisis process and consider what you might do if there is very little coverage vs. a lot of coverage. Review this plan annually, and make sure everyone knows their role during a cannabis product recall.

 

No one likes to talk about cannabis product recalls. It sends a shiver down everyone’s back. But preparing for a recall helps take the sting out it. Contact us, we’re experts in cannabis PR firm if you need help creating a plan for a cannabis product recall.

Download our special report: Preparing for a Cannabis Recall

Creating appropriate crisis communications strategies is necessary for any business, but this is especially true for a cannabis crisis. Whether it’s a recall, or a significant event hits the industry, cannabis companies must change how they handle potential problems that could challenge their success. This is especially true for CPG companies like cannabis brands who also have the additional risk of a cannabis recall.

 

The unexpected can happen at any moment. For example, the COVID-19 outbreak limited business operations and disrupted consumer spending habits. Airlines canceled flights, and hotels stopped accepting reservations. Everyone went into lockdown, and it affected companies in every job industry.

 

You need to have a solid plan in place before you face a cannabis crisis that can significantly affect the cannabis industry. Adequate preparation could prevent a decline in profitability while you’re dealing with a new normal. You must develop necessary communications to address scenarios you could encounter. Circumstances constantly change, and it’s crucial to be ready for anything.

 

You might need to establish multiple communications channels. You should create a hub and assign specific people to lead each group. Allow your chosen leaders to review and approve statements and consistently provide updates to executives.

 

Each staff member within the groups should have scripts they use to answer external and internal inquiries. They should also have a list of updated contacts, so they have access to people they need to communicate with.

In a Crisis: Prioritize Safety

 

Consumers want to know they’re safe whenever a crisis hits. During the coronavirus pandemic, companies put safety measures in place to protect their employees and customers from unnecessary exposure. When you run a cannabis business, you should ensure everyone’s safety at all times. Anyone walking into your store or buying your product needs to know they’re in an environment that won’t make them sick.

Your communications should address safety concerns. Anyone overseeing an internal employee should work with HR and legal teams to develop policies regarding sick leave, working shifts, office health, and telecommuting options during a crisis. You should also create a plan to approach conversations between managers and employees, so information flows seamlessly throughout the company.

Instruct groups handling communication with consumers to advise the protocols you follow regarding cleaning and health. Your customers should be aware of the maximum capacity in your stores and how your workers handle cannabis deliveries without putting others at risk.

Your website is essential for communicating with the public during a crisis. Update your page frequently to inform others of your company’s policies. Advise them of the steps you’re taking to address current issues and prevent further problems from arising.

Your customers should know you take their health and safety seriously during this challenging time. You’re not willing to place them in harm’s way when there’s a crisis. All the safety precautions you take are meant to protect you, your employees, and the public.

The team you designate to handle regulatory affairs will play a valuable role in your company. They can liaise with federal and state health officials to keep your business up to date on evolving safety protocols. The team should communicate regularly with officials and share accurate and detailed information with management and staff. They should also notify officials of what your company is doing to comply with the required regulations.

 

Impact of Cannabis as an Essential Business

Many states see the cannabis industry as essential. Instead of shutting down with other businesses when there’s a crisis, these companies can remain open. However, acquiring and maintaining the status of an essential business isn’t a guarantee for success. You must have a plan to respond to the local government’s regulatory agendas and address their concerns if you want to continue operating.

You can plan how you’ll communicate the essential nature of your product by discussing the medical needs of cannabis. Lobby for an essential status designation from the leaders in your area. Taking action now could prevent a crisis from negatively affecting your company in the future.

Employees in your PR and marketing groups can explain the medical and social benefits of cannabis to a large audience. They can show the public the importance of the cannabis industry and how it can help people navigate a crippling crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Your media team can also inform reporters of your company’s philanthropic efforts. Some businesses donated hand sanitizer to healthcare workers to keep them safe and prevent the further spread of the virus. Journalists and news outlets can get the word out about your industry’s dedication to the well-being of residents within the community.

 

Don’t Forget About Your Investors

You must maintain frequent and ongoing crisis communications with anyone with financial interests in your company, such as investors and suppliers. Instruct your team to communicate with your suppliers regarding retail challenges and inventory shortages they might face. Try to come up with solutions to the problem before they happen, so you protect your retailer’s and supplier’s bottom lines.

 

Any investors you formed a relationship with should be aware of the steps you’re taking to resume normal business operations. Your team must identify essential business functions, such as supply chain services and critical jobs, that are necessary to continued operations with limited disruptions.

Your spokespeople must warn investors of potential disruptions to operating procedures. Your investors should also know about your plans for an emergency and how you’re going to recover once the crisis is over.

Streamlining your crisis communications strategy means you can successfully navigate any crisis you face. Review statements you make before releasing them to determine whether they reflect your company culture and the impact you have on your customers. The cannabis industry can overcome complex obstacles and thrive with strategic and effective communication plans.

 

Contact Us

 

Avaans Media is a top cannabis PR agency you can depend on to effectively manage your company’s brand and implement the appropriate strategies to gain new customers and grow your business.

Since 2008, our PR team has provided comprehensive services to clients in various industries. The cannabis business is unique but expanding rapidly. You need to keep up with your competitors, so they don’t leave you behind. Our team can spearhead your campaigns to improve your credibility and reputation within the market.

 

Contact us right now if you’re interested in discussing your needs with a trusted and knowledgeable PR firm with years of experience.