Public Relations In-Class Mock Disaster

News Release

Contact: Amie Bronson                                                                                                   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Email: (PRemployeeEmailhere)                                                                                      11 a.m., November 21, 2013



 ANYCITY,ON, Nov. 2013 — As of 9 a.m. this morning Spruce Juice discovered that beverages sold in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia were contaminated with the e-coli bacteria.

The safety of Canadians is the number one priority for Spruce Juice at all times. All products were immediately recalled, production was stopped and extensive cleaning began. Spruce Juice and our suppliers are currently assisting Canada’s Public Health Agency in the investigation in any way possible.

The company will continue to update the public on this matter. Spruce Juice offers its deepest sympathies to every Canadian that has been affected from this incident.

Spruce Juice has never faced a situation like this in its 50 years of supplying healthy organic beverages to Canadians. The company is dedicated to putting public interest first as always.

Spruce Juice has a continuing commitment to the highest level of safety standards and the company aims to go above and beyond regulatory requirements.

Members of the public who experience any symptoms associated with the e-coli bacteria please seek medical attention immediately. The symptoms are listed on the Spruce Juice website (website here)



For more information contact our Quality Control Management team: (Quality Control Email here) or the Canadian Public Health Agency: (CPHA email here)



Mock Disaster Follow-up Report

On Thursday November 21, 2013 our class was asked to respond to a mock disaster scenario. The scenario involved a company named Spruce Juice, that produced organic beverages in eastern Ontario and distributed them throughout Canada. The scenario stated that at 9 a.m. the public relations department was notified that Spruce Juice products sold in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec were contaminated with e-coli bacteria. There were several cases of e-coli poisoning reported as a result of consuming Spruce Juice beverages. There were also two deaths reported in Vancouver that were allegedly cause by Spruce Juice products.

Our class of public relations students was divided into groups of three. Each group was asked to strategically plan a press conference within the next hour. I was in a group with two very intelligent and well-spoken ladies; Katrina White and Ashliegh Gahl. All the groups fanned out as we began to work through our strategies. The following is a personal reflection on the goals and objectives, key target audiences and key messages that we as a group wanted to address in our news release.

Goals & Objectives

The main goal for our team was to assure the public that our top priority was their safety. We planned to achieve this by stating that the product had been recalled, production was stopped and the facility was being thoroughly cleaned.  By taking initiative to fix the problem our company wanted to show the public that standard safety precautions could not have prevented this incident and that we as company followed procedure.

Stakeholders needed to be reassured that the company would not let this mishap define them. Our team wanted the actions taken to define our company. We wanted to assure stakeholders that our company has learned from this incident and will come back stronger than before. We also wanted them to know that the company would be implementing new safety standards to prevent any issue like this from happening again to Spruce Juice products.

Our team was also concerned with our brands image; we wanted to take responsibility without admitting guilt. Our team did not want to admit guilt when there were no known facts that put the blame on us for the two deaths.  We needed to show the public and stakeholders that we were empathetic and apologize to any Canadians that may have been affected by the contaminated products.

Key Target Audiences

The key target audiences in this case were the public, for safety reasons, and stakeholders: customers, employees, stock holders, suppliers, distributors, shareholders/investors, media and brand ambassadors. Public safety was our first and foremost concern. By reacting immediately our team prevented any further illness or alleged loss of life. Several people were ill as a result of the e-coli bacteria discovered in Spruce Juice beverages.  Our company needed to show empathy for anyone affected while not admitting guilt for the unproven accusations. For any and all persons who are found to have been undoubtedly affected by our product, our company plans to offer restitution and condolences in the hopes of avoiding a class action suit and protecting our brand image.

Stakeholders needed to be reassured that our facility would recover and continue to produce healthy organic beverages. It needed to be made perfectly clear to all target audiences that we have learned from this horrific disaster and that we will have the absolute highest standards for safety and quality control to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Key Messages

Our team wanted to ensure that the public was safe from further harm as a result of our fast reaction to recall the product. We followed  CAPS[1] in this scenario to make sure our target audiences need were met. We showed compassion both in our statement and in the company news release. Action was taken immediately when the product was recalled. Our team gave perspective to our target audience by explaining what had happened. We summarized the situation in the press conference and news release to eliminate as much confusion and diffuse as many rumors as possible. We wanted to ensure that any and all Canadians affected received medical treatment immediately; so we put a list of symptoms on our website and spread the link though our media sources.

Another priority for our team was to reassure stakeholders that our company was prepared, level-headed, responsible, and empathetic. We wanted the public, stakeholders and our competitors to know that we would be a stronger company as a result of this incident.  We knew from the Maple Leaf case study that was covered in class that our brand would be able to make a strong comeback if appropriate steps were taken.


At first I didn’t think that the mock disaster would feel any different than the scenarios we run through in our case studies class. Luckily we recently covered the Maple Leaf Listeria case and I believe that many groups, mine included, referenced this case as a guide for handling this situation. From this case study we learned as a class that immediate action and responsibility can save a company and their image. The company needed to recall the product to ensure that no one else would become ill.  I believe that most groups followed in Maple Leafs footsteps in the mock disaster. Some groups followed the steps they took and others, my group included, mirrored statements and the empathetic tone of the CEO.

I have learned that by showing empathy and remorse the public will know that the company is sincere and that they took all reasonable measures to prevent this incident. By shutting down production, cleaning, working towards implementing new safety procedures and adding more quality control steps, the company can show that they have learned and are doing all they can to prevent anything like this from happening again. We have learned that if a situation like this is handled correctly, the public may feel that the company is more safe than ever and they may even attract new customers as a result. This exercise brought to light the pressures of a crisis and the importance a few words can have on a company’s image, their stakeholders and the public.

[1] Compassion, Action, Perspective, Summary


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