At the end of last month, Maple Leaf Foods announced it was launching an online blog (http://blog.mapleleaf.com). “We believe it is our responsibility to maintain direct and open communications on a subject that is of high interest and importance to everyone,” says a company statement regarding the site. “This blog will engage leaders from Maple Leaf Foods, including CEO Michael McCain and Chief Food Safety Officer Dr. Randall Huffman, in a dialogue with interested Canadians and others as we continue on our journey to food safety leadership. This blog will feature commentary on our progress, including videos and podcasts, address topics and questions related to Listeria and other food safety issues, and respond to events as they occur.”
Not surprisingly, the first post was an expressive letter from McCain himself addressing last year’s Listeriosis outbreak, the company’s subsequent food safety efforts and its ongoing commitment to improving food safety in all of its operations. In addition to listing the food safety measures they have undertaken, McCain writes: “We intend to spread the word. We feel we can best give meaning to last August’s tragedy by becoming Canada’s Listeria educator…even Canada’s Listeria nag. In the months ahead, we will be unveiling a Listeria education program to inform our peer companies, our customers, the general public, and especially vulnerable populations about what we can all do to reduce the risk from Listeria. We will have unprecedented outreach to everyone that has an interest in Listeria and better food safety.”
The blog also lists links to webcasts, sites and fact sheets on food safety by Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the American Meat Institute and others. In fact, it’s quite an effective tool in terms of both public education and getting the Maple Leaf message out.
Maple Leaf is unquestionably media savvy – just think about the positive feedback it received last year for its quick and heartfelt public response to the initial Listeriosis crisis. Jumping on the blogging bandwagon just shows how much its leadership recognizes that using online tools to get the story out is now a viable business vehicle. The trick, one that few companies have so far managed, is to strike the right balance between messaging and marketing. And if the true value of social messaging is not directly financial, it most certainly pays off in terms of public awareness, accessibility and reputation – all of which eventually go towards consumer purchasing decisions.