Our chief technical officer, Chris Curtin, forwarded me an article from ClickZ highlighting how poorly some retailers are handling their crisis communications surrounding the recent avalanche of lead paint exposure recalls. Chris pointed out how the article focuses on a lack of search-based ads for communicating with the public, but never mentions an even easier, more accurate and less expensive channel: email.
Any retailer that sells children's products over the Web most certainly has a list of customers who have purchased the recalled products, as well as similar products that have not been recalled. It would be almost trivial to send out an email to all those people informing them of the recall status and instructing them on how to return the products. Equally valuable, they could send messages to customers who have purchased products that are similar, but that have not been recalled.
Perhaps there are liability concerns that I'm not aware of. Or, perhaps, as a seasoned public relations friend of mine suggested, decades of experience in traditional crisis communications could easily lead these professionals to miss the Internet as a medium altogether. As retailers take out full-page ads and run television commercials, some seem to be completely missing the Internet. What a shame.