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Lessons from 5 High Profile Crisis Communication Cases

Every thriving business is a magnet to both success and crisis. These polarities exist to test the mettle of your company and thus, help it survive in the industry, where losses and liabilities are as common as assets and earnings.

Part of the reason a company can survive is because of a crisis communication planner that will help you carry out solutions to particular problems—whether real or perceived.

A crisis communication planner is essential to any business, as it helps you and your team to foresee events that may be detrimental to the company. It also enables you to list down your objectives and think of plausible resolutions so that certain issues do not go out of hand.

Fortunately, several companies have successfully overcome their own crises.


1. Customer’s Safety First

Chipotle, a Mexican Grill restaurant in Portland, had their first major crisis when customers became ill, reportedly because their dishes had E. coli. The bacterium can cause dehydration, diarrhea, and renal failure.

According to experts, Chipotle will survive the crisis because of its popularity and its loyal customers. Even Chipotle’s adamant anti-gay stance has not affected its popularity, and neither will E.coli. But perhaps the stronger stance of Chipotle is not in its celebrity-like popularity but in its people-before-profit attitude.

While the Mexican grill is not as transparent as the media wanted it to be, Chipotle, at the very least, expressed its intention to strengthen measures for food safety and hygiene, even to the extent of closing down their restaurants in Washington and Oregon.

Other companies who have been in the same dilemma have survived as well because they were willing to spend on ensuring better food management. Even Taco Bell got involved in an E.coli problem, but today, it remains to be one of the best-loved restaurants in the States, as well as abroad.

The crisis management plan would involve tracing the suppliers and checking out their sanitation. If you are into the food business, it may help to orient your staff on sanitation, proper food preparation, and healthy practices.

The safety of customers should never be undermined because this is what keeps them glued to your service or product. Mothers, for example, are concerned with what they feed and clothe their babies.

So when a report claiming that Huggies diapers had glass shards in them went viral, mothers naturally became alarmed. Media outlets picked up on the scoop, and the news became even more controversial, forcing the company to launch strong PR efforts to curb the damage to their reputation.


2. Reassure, Reward, Resume

Should you come to a major business crisis, it is important to reassure your clients that your products and services are safe. Clear any gaps between your company and customers through 24/7 customer service hotlines, testimonials, product testings, emails, newsletters, and media appearances.

With social media spreading videos like wildfire, it will be up to you to set the pace for your PR efforts. If possible, launch a press conference to mitigate the situation.

While some new and potential customers might back out and look for another product, find time to reward clients who have stayed loyal to your company. Give away freebies and a gratitude poster or ad to bolster positive feelings among consumers. Encourage parents and bloggers to write about the product after testing for its safety. Soon, social media will catch up and disseminate information about your product.

Despite the controversy, resume your business and carry on as if nothing happened. Do not give into crisis. Show your clients that you have nothing to fear and you are not bothered by false reports.


3. Urgent Solutions and Reactions from a Spotless Leader

A similar incident happened to Volkswagen AG when reports of devices that circumvent environmental protection have been installed in the vehicles started leaking out to the public.

However, the company failed to clarify the issue and instead, gave a disjointed public response that aggravated the situation. Worse, Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s chief executive in the US, admitted that the company cheated.

What Volkswagen could have done is to respond to the matter and calls from the press to explain, if not deny nor defend themselves from, the allegation.

Having a spokesperson or a chief executive with a pristine record helps in getting back the people’s trust. There should be no dilly-dallying in crisis communication. Your company must understand internal issues before speaking to the public, because once the matter is out, it would be hard to retract what has been initially said.


4. Keeping One’s Cool When Crisis Happens

Dealing with crisis communication may take on more than just a rehearsed yet truthful explanation to the press. The power of social media may be used to your company’s disadvantage. Such is the incident with Nintendo and Alison Rapp, who was fired for allegedly moonlighting—a no-no for Nintendo’s employees.

Amidst Rapp’s tweets and her alleged harassment courtesy of GamerGate, a group of gamers, Nintendo kept a professional distance on the matter and did not meddle in the altercation between Rapp and GamerGate.

Instead, they chose to give their official statement. Unlike other companies who fire back at moonlighting employees, with verbal spats escalating online, Nintendo even bid Rapp good luck on her future endeavors. When a crisis like this erupts in social media, it pays well to remain calm and professional.

Staying away from prolonged heated responses especially over social media can even save a company’s already damaged reputation. Think of it as not adding more salt to the wound.


5. One’s Loss Is Someone Else’s Gain

When Amazon and the New York Times had heated exchanges over a feature story released by the latter, the altercation became a mill for more issues, even if these issues have already died down.

The issue surrounding Amazon and the New York Times became more popular on Medium, the platform used in the rebuttal. Not only did this result in an unsightly virtual fight, but it boosted Medium’s subscribers and readers.

If you were on Amazon and the NY Times’ position, perhaps a more formal letter could settle the problem.


A crisis communication plan will surely prevent these things from happening. When a crisis threatens your company, a clear and objective perspective will be a better way to handle it instead of relying on emotions, temper, and uncharacteristic behavior.

Marcom Cruz

Marcom specializes in creating engaging and informative content. His work draws from his extensive experience in the industry and his passion for promoting performance excellence among professionals.

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8th Floor, Montepino Building, 138 Amorsolo corner Gamboa St., Legaspi Village Makati City


390 Hoang Van Thu Street, Ward 4, Tan Binh District, HCMC, Vietnam


No.9, Desika Road, Mylapore, Chennai, India – 600004


8 Burn Road, #07-14 TRIVEX Singapore 369977

Email us at [email protected]

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