Natural Products Insider

APR 2012

INSIDER is the leading information source for marketers, manufacturers and formulators of dietary supplements, healthy foods and cosmeceuticals. Since 1997, INSIDER has been serving the needs of the global nutrition industry.

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Be the Good Witch: Navigating the Dr. Oz Effect O nce upon a time, a product mention on Oprah could make a company overnight. Today, we have Dr. Oz, who can, with one mention, singlehandedly wipe out the nation's supply of a formerly obscure herb. Most dietary supplement manufacturers have benefited from this, although there have been concerns that occasionally his information is less accurate than industry would like. But a negative report, like his recent "exposé" on spiked supplements, could have the effect of undermining consumer confidence in our category more thoroughly than five badly designed, but widely reported, clinical studies. While Dr. Oz is the influencer of the moment, throughout my two-plus decades handling public relations for natural products and supplement companies, dealing with such influential outlets has always been an interesting challenge. While it might be tempting to link your company's name to such a product mention, it's also an invitation to be sued. And yet, the window of opportunity is brief, whether it is to let existing and potential customers know that you are one of the few companies offering X product (insert example of your relatively rare product here), or to explain that, while as alarming as that report was, risky supplements are the exception rather than as common as it sounded. Since a quick reaction is essential to have an impact, companies can use a number of tools that should be in place in advance. An element of this kind of si tuat ion is simi lar to crisis communications in that a company should have a plan and a team to rally on short notice. If it doesn't have the tools it needs, it will probably blow it. If a company doesn't have a crisis communications plan already, it should start developing one. A lot of companies don't because they: 1) hope to never have a crisis, and 2) just the mention of the word "crisis" scares them. If it makes you feel better, call it something else, like "Quick Draw McGraw's Rapid Response Plan." The key is the rapid response component, but it's the preparation that allows a company to make the most of it, either to boost sales or mitigate damage. Here's what a company needs: r Email list that is maintained and added to regularly r Supplemental fax list for those five customers who still don't do email r Designated team of people, including sales, regulatory, nutritional and communications staff—don't forget to include regulatory. Did I mention the need for regulatory input? r A robust social media presence r Draft language to be shaped for the circumstances r An reputation for quality products, reliable information and conducting business with integrity. You absolutely can't say, "As seen on Dr. Oz" or anything that implies an endorsement, even if your brand was among the array on his table. What you can say depends upon what his report entailed. If his report could constitute a drug or disease claim, be more careful from a legal standpoint. Safe language would include, 54 INSIDER ¥ APRIL 2012 by Suzanne Shelton "Consumers have just discovered the health benefits of artichoke extract, and we have it in stock." Slightly more risky, but probably OK would be, "When Dr. Oz did a segment on fenugreek yesterday, we saw an immediate bump in orders, but we do still have some available." Do an email blast and post it on your social networking sites as soon as your regulatory expert signs off on your wording. When the story is negative, prepared language that can be adapted is extremely impor tant. I'm going to use the Dr. Oz segment on adulterated weight loss products as my example, but this also applies to a Proposition 65 situation, a negative ConsumerLab.com report, a product recall or any situation that could call into question the safety of your products. The goal is first to reassure your customers and consumers that your products are safe and effective, and second, to mitigate loss of confidence in the safety of the entire product category. Make sure the team working on this knows as much as possible about the situation. Yes, this sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised. Actually watch the segment. Check to see if any industry trade associations have weighed in on the repor t. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has an excellent website, keepsupplementsclean.org, that you should check for any adulteration issues. Then, develop bullet points for the message: r %S 0[ BJ SFE B TFHNFOU BCPVU TQJLFE XFJHIU MPTT supplements that said a large percentage of products contain undeclared drugs. r 8IJMF UIJT TQJLJOH QSBDUJDF EPFT TPNFUJNFT IBQQFO BOE '%" fortunately, is cracking down on offenders, it is largely confined to products sold via the Internet and late-night TV commercials. r What they did not emphasize on the TV show was that they tested only products they already strongly suspected of being adulterated. r Responsible manufacturers like us that make up the core of the industry follow strict procedures to ensure the safety and integrity of products r Here are the steps we take to ensure safety and integrity of our products, including carefully vetting ingredient suppliers and testing all ingredients before they go into the production line. r *G ZPV IBWF BOZ RVFTUJPOT EP OPU IFTJUBUF UP DBMM VT BU

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