Crisis Training and Crisis Management

No organization is immune from crisis. Crisis are a testing time for management and corporate reputations; timely, judicious decision-making and communication are critical to ensuring employees, customers and external stakeholders retain confidence in an organization and its products or services. North Head assists clients with counsel and services to ensure they are adequately prepared, able to weather the crisis towards an optimal outcome and then recover or even enhance their reputations.

Case 1: From Crisis to Strategic Counsel: Reputation Management for a Multinational Pulp and Paper Company


The close link between natural forest conservation and pulp and paper production has drawn much attention from environmental NGOs on forest utilization. Given that, a number of environmental NGOs launched a series of campaigns against a world leading pulp and paper company, claiming that the company had been felling natural forests and its plantations had reduced the biodiversity of local eco-systems. Far beyond just reputation, NGO’s had targeted large customers of the paper company, so creating a hurdle for future growth. North Head developed a holistic and strategic reputation management strategy, including communications platforms to help the client tackle these major business challenges.


Due to the lack of a crisis management system, insufficient recognition of the impact on reputation, and self-confidence of its cost competitiveness, the company seldom responded to such crises. However, the concerted campaigns of NGOs had not only resulted in reputation damage, but were jeopardizing relationships between the company and its customers, relevant forest bureaus, and other industry stakeholders. The overall impact was putting its growth prospects and business development in China at risk. Hence, it became an imperative for the company to develop a holistic communications strategy from being able to respond effectively to accusations from NGOs, communicate positive messages and stories, while enhancing relationships between the company and its various stakeholders.


These efforts resulted in the company’s establishment of an effective crisis and issue response system, and also enhanced its internal processes and cross-department collaboration. Such crisis and reputation management capabilities were improved dramatically within one to three years. The company also strengthened its relationship with key stakeholders through the effective communications strategy. A key learning point from this is the company quickly learned to turn the crises into opportunities and managed to improve its corporate reputation through positive approaches. It in return served to benefit the company’s business development in China.

Case 2: Helped a Pharmaceutical Company Resolve Customer Complaints related to Product Safety


North Head helped a foreign pharmaceutical company address their product-related crises and protected the company’s reputation and product brands.


The client received over some months a number of customer compl- aints regarding various products. On one occasion the customer also reported the issue to local media, which generated a considerable amount of online coverage. Based on internal and external examination, the company determined that the reported problem had never occurred in the past and also ruled out the possibility of the product being contaminated during the manufacturing process. The challenge was to balance between the difficulty to identify the responsible party outside of the manufacturing process, as well as offering a reasonable explanation and maintaining the trust of customers and the public.


North Head’s communication approach, messaging and actions helped our client regain complainants’ trust and positioned the client as a responsible company that places the needs of customers first. For each case media coverages were contained, which effectively prevented our client from facing the consequences of ongoing negative reporting and close perusal by the media. As part of the client’s recovery campaign, a positive media report on product quality was achieved after these incidents subsided.

Case 3: Capacity Building for Media and Crisis Management at a Multinational Chemical Company


North Head provided a series of training sessions and simulation exercises for this client for its global executive team, regional senior executives and at high priority facilities in China, South East Asia and the Middle East.


Our client is a European-based chemical company that had experienc- ed fast growth in China, the Middle East and Asia. The fast growth raised its risk profile. Given the nature of the chemical sector, the increased public scrutiny of product safety and environmental issues coupled with the rising influence of interest groups, chemical companies such as the client consider themselves increasingly vulnerable. The client felt it was imperative to have its management equipped with necessary media and crisis communications skills to ensure ample preparation for any situation.


Based on the post-training survey, all participated senior executive feel that this training met or exceeded their expectations and is very useful to their jobs. They hope to have it on a regular basis to refresh and hone their crisis management skills.

Case 4: Litigation Communications and Issue Campaign for a Technology Company


North Head provided litigation communications for two law suits for a foreign technology company and devised an integrated campaign directed at government, customers, trade associations and media in China.


China is a dynamic but challenging market. Managing disputes as a foreign company can be very sensitive at the best of times. There is a litany of foreign companies, on finding themselves in public dispute with Chinese competitors, subsequently see their operations badly suffer. When the commercial and legal disputes are with an incumbent who has received awards and funding by the Chinese government and IT establishment, then the situation can become fraught.

Company X had been portrayed as a role model for indigenous innovation, advancing local standards and entrepreneurship. It had a predominant market share in the segment. This was the challenge for the client, a leading Israeli digital mobile TV solutions provider, and North Head in early 2011.


The client provided China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB) comp-atible chips. CMMB is a standard developed and licensed by the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), and is a key component of China’s 3G mobile TD-SCDMA system. Overall, the Chinese 3G mobile system was devised as a strategic technology to break dependence on western technologies and payment of patent fees. China Mobile, the world’s largest operator was tasked to roll out TD-SCDMA across China.

Following a steady growth of market share, the client was falsely accused in 2010 of infringing IPR of Company X and being unlicensed by SARFT. There followed harassment of business partners and customers, spreading rumors aimed at stopping further cooperation with the client. Nationalist arguments were a cornerstone of this campaign. Company X initiated legal proceedings in Beijing and extended itscampaign to the media citing that the client company would not be able to supply chips in the future, being forced out of the China market by the government and the courts. In late 2010 the client countersued in the U.S. for anti-competitive behavior.


The results exceeded expectations, demonstrating that a well-executed stakeholder engagement and reputation campaign can not only support a legal strategy but become the determining factor for resolution. In addition to extricating the client from a damaging situation commercially, it created opportunities to advance the business in China.

Achievements were:


  • Under the mediation of the Chinese government in the form of SARFT, the client and Company X agreed to resolve their disputes and dropped respective legal suits in China and the U.S.
  • The client lost no major customers, continued partnerships with the likes of Huawei, ZTE, Datang etc. while its record of winning China Mobile 3G handset tenders actually improved.



Campaign metrics included:


  • Over 500 positive articles by influential online and traditional media.
  • Deployed over 20 advocates.
  • A perception audit showed corporate reputation and brand recognition increased by 67%.



The client is well positioned for future success in China, as written by one journalist: “The (client) company has made crucial efforts for development of the CMMB industry with its extensive international experience in mobile digital TV, and this is crucial for the Chinese market. A fair and healthy market environment that allows competition will ultimately benefit Chinese customers and consumers.” (The Economic Observer)

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