April 12 2023 08:20 AM

Crisis communication is critical to protecting dairy’s image.

What’s the saying . . . don’t let a good crisis go to waste? Unfortunately, crises happen in the dairy industry more than we’d like, and we learn something from each and every one.

Because of this, ADA North East’s issues and crisis preparedness efforts are on high alert, and we maintain a state of readiness to respond to a crisis or other emerging issues that could affect our industry. Our assembled team of on-staff communications experts monitor issues 24/7, locally and nationally, in traditional as well as social media.

Most issues result because of animal activists, but other hot topics involve on-farm or farmer issues, food safety concerns or product recalls, product issues in schools, labor issues, and more. The chart shows the breakdown of the issues our crisis team addressed in 2022.

Knowing that you can’t wait until the crisis is actually happening to develop a crisis plan, our Core Crisis Team meets monthly as well as on an as-needed basis for urgent concerns that require a response. That way, we’re prepared for anything that might come down the pipeline and not trying to create responses in the heat of the moment. Our team also provides quarterly crisis preparedness training and/or crisis drills for staff members, so they’re armed with the best information to defend dairy.

“You can’t wait until you’re in the midst of a crisis to develop a crisis plan, so we are diligent about being prepared to respond to an issue as soon as we catch wind of it,” said ADA North East director of consumer confidence Beth Meyer. “We’re here to support the industry — and especially our dairy farmers — so they can focus on what matters most, which is producing wholesome, nutritious milk to feed communities.”

We also work in conjunction with Dairy Management Inc., and the 16 other state and regional checkoff organizations, which allows us to draw on others’ experiences and their reactions to controlling the issues.

Getting accurate information out quickly to help diffuse situations is critical, as well. We developed an “Issue Alert” that we send to our email and text lists that has “news you can use” on how to deal with an issue that may occur within our region. You can subscribe to the alert here.

“Ideally, we’d love to never use our crisis plans,” said Meyer. “But if and when an issue arises, we’re ready to help keep the bad from getting worse.”

Jean Kummer

Jean Kummer is the industry communications specialist for American Dairy Association North East.