When it comes to China PR, if Will Moss over at ImageThief says it, I view it as gospel [definition number 4 in the link].
In a recent post, Inside Carrefour’s crisis management in China, [link no longer exists] Will sets out some of the basic rules of crisis communication for foreign firms doing business in China:
Be prepared to respond fast. Silence often equals guilt in the eyes of the public. Have an issues management kit that anticipates possible crisis scenarios in place beforehand. Don’t rely on guidance from overseas headquarters.
Pay close attention to the tone of your public communications. Address concerns. State positions. Don’t condescend or talk down to Chinese audiences.
Get everybody on the same page. Limit public comments to the minimum number of spokespeople and throttle unauthorized communication.
Brief employees so they know what is expected of them and how to respond to media queries, ambushes, etc.
For consumer brands, ongoing monitoring of the Internet is a good idea. Internet scandals are often flashes-in-the-pan, but they can erupt into the mainstream. It’s better not to be caught by surprise.
Is this any different from how such a crisis should be handled stateside?
A few months ago, I spoke at an excellent conference in Las Vegas on “Managing the Risks of Manufacturing in China.” One of the speakers, also an international lawyer, nicely summed up how US companies should react to a China manufacturing crisis by saying they needed to be like Andy Petite, not like Roger Clemens in terms of how each of them handled their charges of steroid use.
Sounds like good advice for a China crisis also.