Anyone who has been reading the media over the past year will know how easily a negative story or corporate challenge can spread across the Chinese media.
From false accusations and near misses to genuine health scares, global names like McDonalds, KFC, Fonterra, Heinz and Starbucks, as well as some smaller local brands, have found themselves struggling to recover after Chinese public opinion and media turns on them.
Dealing quickly and efficiently with a PR crisis is an important part of any communications professional's repertoire. To avoid bad publicity or a lasting impact on sales and revenue, your company needs to be ready to respond - and fast!
"Nobody expects you [...] to know what happened within a few minutes [or] within an hour," explained APCO Singapore Managing Director Linda Du. However, Ms Du does suggest you "acknowledge there's a problem".
The key here is to have media monitoring strategies in place. You can hardly expect to have a statement prepared in time if you are not aware when a story is breaking. And social media is one of the areas you need to be keeping close tabs on.
"Chinese consumers have always followed product safety scandals very closely but social media [...] has really amplified a lot of the discussion around brand exposes and focussed more attention [on the crisis]," said China Market Research Group Associate Principal James Roy.
Firms that find themselves embroiled in a media crisis of any type need to understand that timing is everything. For instance, with the McDonalds meat scandal, the company had posted a sincere apology within an hour of the news breaking. When another firm also involved in the incident followed with a similar response, it was accused of being less sincere because its statement was posted half an hour later than McDonalds' release.
This shows just how important it is to have your ear to the ground at all times, with a quick response making all the difference to your crisis management strategies.