Tesco : Rationing reassurance

Poor coordination contaminates good crisis management practice.

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The feature

Tesco, a UK-based supermarket group, makes a poor job of managing its response across online channels to a contaminated products crisis. Tesco’s News panel on its corporate (as opposed to retail) home page is headed by a linked summary to a statement dated 11 February 2013 from its group technical director, Tim Smith, about ‘Meat testing’ and the withdrawal of a beef product from a particular supplier after samples were found to contain horse meat. To the left of News is a viewer loaded with a video titled ‘Tim Smith comments on Tesco investigation’. On playing, the video is revealed to be associated with a statement on 30 January about a similar incident with a different supplier (the statement is included lower down the News panel). The News panel has tabs for the corporate media Twitter feed and blogs; neither has content about the latest incident and statement. The Tim Smith video is not listed on the company YouTube channel, which is linked from the universal rich footer. The Product recall page reached from ‘Useful links’ in the footer makes no reference to the horse meat contamination issue. This page and the YouTube channel also feature on the company’s online store site, tesco.com, which along with its Facebook page has no mention of the latest statement or the underlying issue.

The takeaway

Tesco’s online response to the first horse meat crisis, in January, was impressively swift and fulsome – superimposing a ‘We apologise’ panel on its main (retail) tesco.com home page. At first sight its current use of a video response from a senor manager seems equally admirable – but the fact that it relates to the ‘wrong’ crisis cuts the ground from under it. The Tim Smith video appears from its positioning and limited captioning to be associated with the statement of 11 February. However, not only does it refer to an earlier incident, his assurance that Tesco’s checking programme will prevent a repeat is undermined by the evidence in the next panel that there has indeed been another equine incident. Embarrassing. On a broader front, the lack of coordination between Tesco’s main retail site (tesco.com), its corporate site (tescoplc.com) and its social media channels suggests that while it has the ability to react with speed, it has not yet worked out how to act with coordination.

First published 12 February, 2013
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