How Could the National Pork Board Have Better Responded?

If you listen to Minnesota Public Radio, perhaps you’ve caught the promotional spot from the National Pork Board declaring “cooked pork is safe” from the recent flu outbreak.

I already assumed cooked pork was safe. Now, an organization financed by pork producers is telling me it’s safe – the conflict of interest and dismissive tone makes me doubt it is safe.

I understand the NPB’s desire to say something. Unfortunately, this current spot shows they’re clearly (and unnecessarily) playing defense1

What could the NPB say that wouldn’t set off my pigshit detector?

  1. Acknowledge it as a general health issue.
    “National Pork Board reminds you help prevent the spread of viruses like the H1N1 flu by covering your mouth when coughing and throughly washing your hands.”
  2. Embrace it as an issue and be transparent about your direct actions.
    “National Pork Board invites you to visit for a live updated map as we check our all member farms for signs of the H1N1 virus.”
  3. Nothing.
    This doesn’t impact how people normally interact with their products, why should they comment? Kudos to the comment-free representatives of Tyson Foods & Hormel Foods cited in this AP article.

Any one of these 3 approaches feels better to me.

Are you in PR? I’d love your thoughts on this issue.

1. And that they may not know their target audience. According to this AP article – the $5b/yr of US raised pork is exported – with countries banning the import of pork. I’m neither banning it’s importation nor contributing to that $5b/yr.

4 thoughts on “How Could the National Pork Board Have Better Responded?

  1. I agree with you that by the NPB saying cooked pork is safe that it does nothing to alleviate concerns about eating pork.

    They should be transparent, IMO. It seems that it would work in their favor rather than letting people rant on and on about pig flu and pork on sites like Facebook and Twitter (even though I’m sure they will anyway). But it seems to me that transparency is a result of social sites whether corporations like it or not. I think the question is how will these corporations use these sites to create/continue the dialogue that already exists.

  2. You already assumed cooked pork would be safe, but you’re not the problem. You’re relatively bright.

    Unfortunately, not everyone makes that rather basic assumption, and they need to be told it’s safe to eat pork.

    That still leaves the “conflict of interest makes me skeptical” issue, which exists for subsets of both the bright and not-so-bright crowds. How do you combat *that*?


    Well, you start communicating before you have a crisis on your hands. Not necessarily widespread, expensive, crisis-level communication, but start building up a reputation for relevant, thoughtful discussion before the shitstorm.

    I’m not saying the National Pork Board has or hasn’t done this; I don’t know the situation well enough. But looking at what you’re talking about here, I’d be willing to bet they gained more (convinced doubters that pork is safe) than they lost (gave people like you sudden reason to doubt).

  3. I do understand why the pork board felt they had to jump in here – but I like your solution “2” better than what they apparently did – I didn’t hear it. Tone is so key – wish I’d caught that on MPR. Here’s why they should be ready for the next wave — people are now concerned that if humans give a virus to pigs – why can’t it go the other way? So –FAQ’s work well for that. Post on their own website as well as social media sites they may have

    On the radio, I’d have done something like this in very friendly, ‘we’re in it together’: “Hello — Like you, we’re concerned with prevention of the HINI virus. We want to take a moment to support the Centers for Disease Control by repeating the 3 things they know can help prevent the spread of this disease.

    1) Wash your hands frequently
    2) Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing -this is how the disease is spread
    3) If you have flu symptoms or your children do, please stay at home until you’re well

    We’ve posted the CDC’s recommendations on our website along with answers to questions our members have received. Go to (landing page) Facts about HIBI at http://www.porkproducers website. I
    If we learn more, we promise to keep you updated. (AND DO IT!)
    Let’s work together to stay healthy.
    A message from the Pork Producer’s Association.

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