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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

Dealing With A PR Crisis In China

Nothing strikes horror in the minds of PR professionals quite like the words “China PR Crisis.” During the last 19 years in China, I’ve been part of a number of crisis communication incidents. I’ve dealt with fake media news, a near-riot in Beijing, managed hundreds of media inquiries within a 24-hour period in a “war room,” been attacked in the media for not buying a journalist lunch and worked with dozens of companies on reputation management campaigns.

In China, a PR crisis has the potential to quickly escalate due to the influence of social media, growing national pride, cultural sensitivities, as well as a controlled media environment. Western companies in China seem to continuously make simple PR blunders that land them in hot water, which can quickly escalate out of control.

For example, Dolce & Gabbana got into trouble for producing a video that showed a Chinese model struggling to eat different foods with chopsticks. Fuel was added to the fire when screenshots were published of Stefano Gabbana’s offensive text messages about Chinese people (the account was hacked, according to the company). The online backlash was intense, which led to its fashion show being canceled and stock pulled from major stores.

Most recently, H&M, Nike and other Western retailers sparked a scandal when Chinese social media users uncovered statements about their position toward alleged force labor for cotton production in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. H&M was removed from all major e-commerce stores, including Alibaba’s Taobao and Thousands of negative comments have overrun their social media Weibo feeds. Much of this was originally fueled by statements by the government-related China's Communist Youth League and state media People’s Daily.



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