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California Grocers Association
California Grocers Association

SUMMARY

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, stay-at-home orders led to panicked consumer shopping where Californians overbought certain items and left grocery shelves empty. The visible shortages led to even more panic and more overbuying. The cycle needed to stop.

Not surprisingly, the California Grocers Association (CGA) and individual grocers were being inundated with calls from the media and local electeds officials looking for information. This flurry of activity emerged at a quick pace, and while CGA staff was able to respond with compelling talking points, they did not have the bandwidth to get in front of the questions and own the narrative.

CGA hired Bicker, Castillo & Fairbanks (BCF) to develop and implement a short-term crisis control and public information campaign to reassure consumers and key political audiences that the supply chain was healthy, there was no need to over buy, and that stores just needed time to catch up with increased demand and restock their shelves.

BCF developed and implemented a comprehensive earned media and outreach campaign to take control of the narrative and ensure a consistent set of messages to educate and reassure consumers.

developing a campaign theme and digital communications

Instilling public trust in the supply chain and hammering home that overbuying harmed others was critical. Buy Smart, Don’t Overfill Your Cart was developed by BCF and coupled with the #Enough4All hashtag to calm the public and communicate that stores just needed time to catch up with demand and products would be back on store shelves soon.

A campaign website was developed (enoughforallCA.com) over the course of a weekend to house news and resources from CGA, one click downloadable social media graphics to post on social channels and a video of CGA’s President and CEO. To ensure consistency of message and amplify BCF’s proactive outreach to earned media, toolkits were developed for CGA members and elected officials which included talking points, social media posts with graphics, and sample newsletter communication in both English and Spanish.

EARNED MEDIA

Given the flurry of inquiries, it was critical to not simply respond to media inquiries but to go on the offense, take control of the buying panic narrative and establish a visible, consistent CGA presence among the California statewide media. The public needed a steady stream of messaging reinforcing the supply chain was strong and shortages were temporary as long as consumers were considerate of others and didn’t hoard. BCF quickly developed a media package announcing the campaign that included a press release, regionalized messaging, b-roll and sound bites from CGA President Ron Fong reminding people to buy smart, there was enough for all. BCF shipped this out to statewide media and began pitching interviews with CGA and Ron Fong to print, TV, radio and online outlets. If outlets didn’t have the capacity to interview Mr. Fong on Zoom, we produced ready-made packages outlets could use for their story.

Additionally, BCF drafted weekly press releases with unique hooks that included safety shopping tips for consumers, updates on the latest safety guidelines by health officials and reminders to consumers to not overbuy. Regionalized pitches for CGA members to use as part of their own media outreach was also developed. BCF continued proactive pitching for a month until stores began to return to normal.

OUTCOME

Over the course of just 30-days, the CGA narrative got traction and was picked up not just by the earned media, but amplified by CGA members, local elected officials, local chambers and others engaged in the Buy Smart, Don’t Overfill Your Cart narrative. Tangible results include:

  • 35 unique television stories representing every media market in the state
  • 40 print and online articles
  • 15 radio stories
  • Use of social media posts and graphics by local cities, County Supervisors and members of the Legislature throughout the state reminding their followers to Buy Smart and Don’t Overfill their Cart.