Companies with devoted communications teams will usually have a proficient understanding of the crises that they are most likely to face. This understanding encompasses known risks within your own organization, known risks within your industry, knowledge of crises that have affected your competition, and awareness of the types of crises that can strike any organization.
For a business that solely produces vodka, you might think that there are a limited number of risks they need to anticipate. Maybe there are risks related to potential changes in laws or regulations. Consumers who can become dependent on your product, or who act irresponsibly after consuming it, can damage your reputation. You might even be on the lookout for external forces that raise the cost of raw materials. For Tito’s Vodka, having to ensure that people did not use their beverage for sanitation purposes was probably not on their radar. And yet:
“Per the CDC, hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC.”
The above note has been shared dozens of times in the last few weeks as Tito’s social media team has scrambled to quell rumors that their product can be used to sanitize your hands or other surfaces to protect against infection by the coronavirus. A funny joke to some, but Tito’s has been taking this seriously as misinformed consumers could be hurt. Tito’s did an excellent job of acting quickly on this and gained national attention for their rapid and candid response.
Many organizations would call it a day there. Tito’s informed the public, did their due diligence, and protected their brand from any potentially damaging stories where people got sick and blamed their product. But this Austin-based distillery saw an opportunity to take things a step further and create a positive impact instead of only avoiding a negative one. After the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announced that it is authorizing the production of hand sanitizers by permitted distillers, Tito’s got all hands on deck. Last week it pledged to begin production of 24 tons of hand sanitizer that adheres to governmental guidance. The hand sanitizer will be given away free of charge, to “those who need it most.” On top of this, the company also announced that it would donate $2 million toward coronavirus relief efforts, donating half to organizations that focus on the service industry, while the other half will be donated as further needs become clear.
Brands like Absolut, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and Malibu, along with other smaller distilleries are also joining in to donate hand sanitizer as necessary.