Tag Archives: social media

Employee learning, Huddle guide

Trends in Digital Learning

By Holly Mockus
No Comments
Employee learning, Huddle guide

The food industry is becoming increasingly fast-paced. Regulations are changing, the supply chain is becoming more transparent, and resources are harder to access. To meet the needs of an ever-changing industry, digital learning is becoming the go-to solution for training managers and frontline food handlers alike, as it can be done quickly and efficiently. Now that most people have smartphones and mobile devices, there are multiple ways to make learning accessible.

Employee learning
Image courtesy of Alchemy Systems

The “Mind of the Food Worker” study conducted by the Center for Research and Public Policy (CRPP) points out that food workers have developed a preference for digital training over traditional classroom or instructor-conducted training. There are many new approaches to learning, including web-based eLearning, kiosk, gamification/competition, social media, digital signage, and coordinated communication programs. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

eLearning

eLearning is no longer about reading through a PowerPoint presentation or watching a pre-recorded video. The number of companies offering eLearning continues to increase, as do the topics, content and format of the content. In addition, eLearning carries the added benefit of being affordable. For many companies, saving on the cost of travel when an individual attends a workshop provides an attractive incentive.

The ability to learn at one’s own pace at the time and place of one’s choosing has special appeal for today’s learners. The availability of eLearning via mobile devices is meeting that desire. It can be seen everywhere—people glued to their mobile devices while waiting in line, taking a lunch break, or in the evenings on their own time. This is multitasking at its finest.

Kiosks

The ability to take a device to a quiet environment helps with concentration and efficiency in training. Kiosks can be set up in an area that is conducive to learning with no traffic, noise or other distractions and are popping up at workplaces more and more. Learners can come and go at their convenience. A learning lab set up in a manufacturing facility will pay for itself very quickly. Sending workers to the lab one at a time is much more cost effective than shutting down a line or area of the plant for group or classroom training.

Gamification

Gamification, the use of interactive tools in conjunction with learning, is a term being used more often in training industry vocabulary. For example, it can involve the addition of a word and a definition-matching exercise in conjunction with a training module to encourage learners to retain what they have just learned. It also makes the education process more fun—and it seems to be working.

Gone are the days of sitting through hours and hours of dry lectures or reading textbooks that simply do not resonate. This method has always been especially difficult for employees working in a food plant. Sitting in a warm darkened room listening to a droning presentation is an invitation to sleep. Gamification eliminates the droning, and requires attention and participation.

The Association for Psychological Science has confirmed that competition engages learners, drives retention, and leads to higher test scores. Got a boring topic for training?  Get your game on!  A great example of gamified learning that is readily available is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day. Sign up for free and receive a daily email with a new word, along with its pronunciation, definition(s), use and history. The email also links to several great games that provide word calisthenics for the brain.

Social Media

Leveraging social media helps to expand and continuously improve training programs. This mode of technology will ensure that every employee in a company has timely, consistent answers to questions. Using private company social media provides a safe environment for posting questions and answers while complementing a training program and filling any knowledge gaps. The CRPP study points out that 80% of workers regularly use public social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Companies can take full advantage of this familiarity with social media by providing an internal forum that encourages open discussion and group learning. This approach enables the workforce to engage in an interactive learning path that is continually up to date. Internal social media also encourages networking, which fosters a sense of camaraderie between individuals, along with company loyalty. One major food company that has used this approach has seen employee questions flourish from 3,000 entries in the first year to more than 15,000 the following year. What an incredible way to keep the workforce updated minute by minute with appropriate, relevant answers to their inquiries.

Food Safety and Social Media Crisis Communications

What Does a Social Media Crisis Communications Plan Have to Do with Food Safety?

By Ryan Hardy
No Comments
Food Safety and Social Media Crisis Communications

No one can contest the power of social media these days. As of August 2015, there were 2.2. billion users of social networks globally, with Facebook still by far the largest social network platform, at nearly 1.5 billion active users. Even if you aren’t on Twitter or Instagram, you have most likely heard or read about topics on them through other media. The influence of social networks to reach so many people makes them perhaps the most powerful communications tool available.

When it comes to a food safety crisis—whether a product recall or a report that a consumer has found a foreign object in prepared food product—you have to assume that messages about it will show up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even YouTube. From there, it is likely to end up on TV through newscasts as well. If your company maintains silence on social media, the public is likely to assume that you have something to hide, that your company is out of touch with public concerns, or that you just don’t care.

For these reasons, it is important that your food safety program be integrated with a social media crisis communications plan. That does not mean that your food safety team has to create the plan or manage the communications. These responsibilities should fall to your designated communications and public relations personnel. But it does mean that when a food safety issue with potentially harmful effects on public health arises, your food safety team should be aware of the plan and coordinate with the public relations team in the overall response.

The Positive Side of Social Media in a Crisis

The most obvious benefits of using social networks for crisis communications are speed and the large number of people you can reach. In a situation with potential to impact a large number of people, getting accurate information out to the public quickly is important to lower the risk to public health.

Other benefits may not be as obvious. By presenting a consistent and accurate message to a broad audience, your communications can help prevent or counter misinformation. A well-crafted social media post should be clear and concise, and thus is less likely to be misunderstood. That clarity and concision may help to avoid your message being reported as a “sound bite” out of context. And your message is more likely to be transmitted and repeated accurately, as social media users can share it in full.

Studies have shown that frequent communications from a firm can increase consumers’ intentions to comply with a recall effort and, when well handled, actually enhance consumer perception of a company. Thus, a social media crisis communications plan can contribute to action on the part of consumers and to maintain your company’s reputation.

The Downside of Social Media in a Crisis

As with any communications platform, social network communications do have a downside. The social nature of the platforms means that anyone with an account can post a response, and the potential for inaccuracies and outright hostility is very real. How to respond appropriately, and when not to respond at all, takes training and experience. That is the reason that crisis communications need to be handled carefully by the communications experts in your organization.

However, even if you are not the one posting the communications, having an understanding of the plan will help you as you carry out your responsibilities as part of the coordinated response to a food safety incident.

The Basics of a Social Media Crisis Plan
Although each social media crisis communications plan should be tailored for the individual company, the following some common elements of a good plan:

  • Clear assignment of roles and responsibilities. Who should post/comment/tweet on behalf of the company? All others should avoid commenting about the situation, even if using their own accounts, to prevent confusion and promote consistency.
  • Identification of the primary social media channel to use during the crisis (and of secondary channels). For example, will you post all relevant information to the corporate website, on Twitter, or on the corporate Facebook page? Picking one channel helps control the messages and makes it possible to funnel users of other social networks to one central source.
  • Message templates. One template should be for an initial message, indicating that your company is aware of the situation and will be issuing an official statement shortly. Twitter is a good channel to use for this message, but it is also appropriate for your corporate Facebook page. It is also a good idea to include the platform you will be using as your primary channel for communications. For example, the initial message for a company intending to use Facebook as the primary social media communications channel could be “@Company is aware of the [brief description of the situation] and will be issuing an official response soon. For continuing updates, please visit our Facebook page [url].”
  • Internal contact information (including for after-hours). You should know whom to alert and how to contact them regardless of the time, and under what circumstances you should contact them. This is key information to include in your food safety plan.
  • Clear procedures and responsibility for cancelling scheduled social media posts. During a crisis, the company needs to prove that situation is their top priority. Pre-scheduled messages about products can send the wrong message.
  • Guidelines on the frequency and content of messages. For example, measures the company is undertaking and actions consumers can take to avoid the contaminated item(s) should be posted. However, prematurely stating that preliminary measures will completely address the problem should be avoided; otherwise, if you have to increase the scope of corrective measures, your company could lose consumer trust.
  • Message approval procedures. Identify any specific type of message that requires approval by senior management. However, be mindful that a lengthy approval process for all messages will defeat the purpose for communicating through social media. (That’s one reason why templates are an important part of the plan, as they can be vetted and approved ahead of time).
  • Message review procedures. On the other hand, all messages should be reviewed before being posted to verify technical accuracy and to ensure clarity and appropriateness. During a crisis situation, you must adhere to the highest standards of professionalism.
  • Procedures for coordination with regulatory agencies. In the case of a recall, the FDA, CDC and USDA post information on their consumer food safety site at FoodSafety.gov. It is critical that the information provided to these agencies is consistent with messages posted on your social network channel(s).

Coordinating Response and Communications

So what should a food safety professional do regarding a social media crisis plan? Here are some first steps to help with a coordinated response:

  1. Review your food safety procedures to see if procedures for crisis communications are included.
  2. If not, check with your corporate office to find out if there is already a social media crisis plan. Ask to see it, and then update your food safety procedures to include relevant steps to keep the designated contact information updated. If yes, be sure the information in your response plan is current.
  3. Make sure everyone is familiar with the plan and of specific roles and responsibilities. Ensure that employees are trained on what they should expect, and what they should and should not do, regarding social regarding social media during a crisis. Employees should understand that if they post information related to the crisis using their own social media accounts, it can lead to confusion and undermine efforts to protect the public health, as well as affect the company’s credibility.
  4. During a crisis, provide timely and accurate updates to the communications team as appropriate. Be sure to check the designated channels to remain aware of what the company is communicating publicly.

Can Social Listening Lead to Better Crisis Response?

Several major companies in the food industry have found that social listening—the monitoring of social networks for mention of their company and its products—can help them identify a potential problem early. If a consumer post describes finding a foreign object in a can of soda, for example, the manufacturer can quickly reach out to that person through social media to request that the individual contact the customer service department to provide details. That way, an investigation can get underway to determine the accuracy and extent of the potential issue, and the customer can have their situation addressed more quickly and appropriately.

Monitoring the company Facebook page, Twitter ID and hashtags for product names can be a component of proactive measures for averting a larger problem. Better that you find out that someone posted that they found a rat tail in their soup than for you to be blind-sided by a report about it in traditional media.

Public health agencies in New York City and Chicago are also studying the use of social media to identify potential outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in their jurisdictions. They are working to determine if searching restaurant reviews posted on Yelp can help them identify foodborne health issues that have a common source. Results suggest that online restaurant reviews might help to identify unreported outbreaks of foodborne illness and restaurants with deficiencies in food handling.

Don’t Wait Until a Crisis

It is better not to have to learn about the power of social media once a crisis has arisen. Having an understanding of social media’s role in communications and of how your company can use it effectively can help improve your crisis communications efforts.

If you want the public to trust what you say on social media during a food safety crisis, one of the best strategies is to build a reputation as a trustworthy source of food safety information before a crisis occurs. Consider a social campaign around food safety topics, such as how to prepare food products safely, the difference between a sell-by date, a best by date, and an expiration date, and other topics that tell the consumers that you are attuned to their concerns around food safety. If you are considered a trustworthy source of food safety information, your communications during a food safety crisis are more likely to be believed. As a result, you are more likely to be able to protect both public health and your reputation should a crisis arise.

In a future article, we will discuss specific ways to integrate a social media crisis communications plan into your food safety incident response plan.

The WDS Food Safety Team also contributed to this article.

Cities Using Social Media to Police Restaurants

The U.S. is catching on, using Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville, Kentucky, and several other communities.

Yelp-barfblogWhile cities like Guelph, Ontario, are being dragged into the age of public disclosure, countries like Singapore have been training and using restaurant patrons as gumshoes for a decade to help public health types identify possible infractions through the use of cell phones (with nifty cameras).

The U.S. is slowly catching on, reports The Bulletin in Oregon, using Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville, Kentucky, and several other communities.

Local governments increasingly are turning to social media to alert the public to health violations and to nudge establishments into cleaning up their acts. A few cities are even mining users’ comments to track foodborne illnesses or predict which establishments are likely to have sanitation problems.

“For consumers, posting inspection information on Yelp is a good thing because they’re able to make better, informed decisions about where to eat,” said Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in the economics of online businesses. “It also holds restaurants more accountable about cleanliness.”

In recent years, dozens of city and county health departments have been posting restaurant inspection results on government websites to share with the public. Turning to Yelp or other social media, or using crowd-sourced information to increase public awareness, is the next logical step, some officials say.

“Yelp is a window into the restaurant. The restaurateurs don’t want a bad (health) score on Yelp. They’ll be more attentive about getting the restaurants cleaned up and safer,” said Rajiv Bhatia, former environmental health director for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

“It’s also valuable because it allows the public to see the workings of a government agency, and puts some pressure on the agency to do its job,” said Bhatia, a physician who is now a public health consultant.

The National Restaurant Association, the industry’s trade group, said that while it supports transparency and consumers’ access to information, it worries that because inspection standards differ from city to city, Yelp users might not be familiar with rating terminology and therefore could draw incorrect conclusions.

David Matthews, the association’s general counsel, also said the timing of postings is crucial because restaurants often correct findings and generate different ratings after a re-inspection.

Luther Lowe, Yelp’s director of public policy said putting health scores and inspection results in an accessible place where consumers already are searching for restaurant information makes a lot more sense than “relying on those clunky (health department) dot-gov websites.”

This article originally appeared in barfblog.com

Social Media and Food Safety: What Clicks and What Crashes

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments

Food safety concerns are everywhere. Social Media is everywhere. When the two get together, it can mean both good news and bad news for industry players. Some tools for success: Learn to manage risks in this environment; accept that transparency is not an option; translate PhD to ADD; and communicate creatively.

Social media can be a great tool to connect with consumers, and influencers, and promote your brands and systems and procedures used to further food safety and quality. But on the other hand, it can also create an avalanche of food safety concerns and negative publicity that can very quickly spin out of control. How can food companies effectively manage social media channels, and use it to their advantage, and how can they respond to crisis in this world? Four industry players shared their perspectives during a session at the recent Food Safety Summit, held in Baltimore. 

Managing risks in current environment

Daniel Webber, Senior Vice President and Group Head at Edelman, digital corporate and crisis group, painted a scenario by wondering what would have been different if the Jack-in-the-Box incident would have happened today: “An employee could have suggested that the meat had not been cooked long enough, or to a high enough temperature. There would have been comments flying back and forth in FaceBook and Twitter, and soon there could have been mass hysteria about the burgers,” he suggested. 

Food companies have to deal with three types of risk in the current environment, explained Webber: Unanticipated or unpredictable risk, which leads to the company being blindsided; episodic risks which are like waves in the food business – incidents than come and go; and endemic or systemic risk – which is those ‘we should have seen coming,’ caused by a lingering product issue, what he described as a ‘Lance Armstrong’ curve. 

To be better prepared, Webber listed the following steps:

  1. Monitor all media to building intelligence (“monitoring is free research”); 
  2. Develop a plan; 
  3. Do scenario planning (if one of your companies is going through such an issue, what would you do); 
  4. Train (to build muscle memory); 
  5. Make friends now (make them speak for you when needed); 
  6. Tell your story; and 
  7. Get others to tell your story. 

But, he warned, “if it’s truly a crisis, you will need lawyers, publicists, and experts who can help you address that, so know when you need a bigger boat.”

Transparency is not an option, but a necessity

Tara Clark, Consumer Affairs Manager – Social Media, at ConAgra Foods, Inc. manages social media perceptions of the company’s brands, several of which have 100,000 + followers. 

Clark listed some of her observations on what triggers social outrage. Personal experiences: if a friend of family member gets affected or sick that is a huge factor, she said. And how the responds to the situation matters. 

“Consumers take the opportunity to challenge you, and ask you to prove it to them that you deserve their loyalty.” She referred to Google University (and Snopes, Wikipedia etc.) that become trusted sources of information, and active bloggers and consumers who become influencers for the market. 

Clark described the situation of Orville Redenbancher popcorn recall: “We thought it would be a big issue on social media and were worried about posting information about it, but instead of getting negative comments and people ganging up against us, people were supporting us, appreciating our honesty and transparency.” 

Her advice to food companies?

  1. Consumers are your brands’ friends & family, so treat them so; 
  2. Have a personal conversation with them; 
  3. Engage, but don’t force education; 
  4. Know who’s influencing your communities; 
  5. Trust your gut and instincts; 
  6. It’s okay to be human in social media; and 
  7. Remember that transparency is not an option; it’s a necessity. 

Translate PhD to ADD

Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, talked about what drives consumer trust. The larger you are as a company, the more you have to prove that you are trustworthy, he described. 

Arnot talked about a study conducted by the Center which looked at two different scenarios and how consumers reacted to companies’ responses to a fictional food outbreak. The leading factor that garnered a good response was a company’s willingness to accept responsibility in a timely manner. “How and when you engage makes all the difference in recovering from social outrage,” he added. 

Summing up, Arnot listed the following takeaways:

  1. Social decision-making process is complex and multidimensional; decisions are not made on facts and rational thought alone; 
  2. Mistrust of institutions has become the social norm and people are questioning the data and motives of experts; 
  3. Tribal communications, relationships, and experiences influence what you believe; 
  4. Communicating shared values makes science more relevant and gives the public permission to believe your information. 
  5. And finally, the public wants information from academics, but not academic information. So you need to translate PhD to ADD. 

When CDC trended above Christmas

Dana Pitts, Associate Director for Communications in CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, started by saying “Information is CDC’s main product. Getting that data to you is enabled by the interaction between scientists and communicators at CDC and social media plays a big role in these communications.” 

“My job is to tame the science that comes out of the various centers within CDC. And communicate it via our 57 twitter profiles, 18 FaceBook profiles, 14 blogs, two LinkedIn profiles, YouTube, Google +; Flickr; Instagram; several mobile and tablet apps, web and text messaging…” she explained. 

Pitts talked about the Centers recently communicating 40 years of Salmonella data in a manner that people can easily find it and understand it. 

She described a successful social media campaign that CDC ran through the holiday break of 2013, in which experts from the CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the International Food Information Council Foundation answered Twitter users’ questions on food safety during the holidays. 

“The conversation, “Don’t toss your cookies’ was a great success. In one hour, there were 731 participants. We had 40 partners, 718 tweets during chat, with a potential reach of 58 million. At one point, we were trending on Twitter, just above Christmas,” Pitts proudly described.