The PR Butterfly Effect: Staying Awake in a PR Crisis Across 14 Time Zones

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Categories: Communication Strategy, Crisis & Reputation, Techniques & Tactics

How can a lost password somewhere in Siberia cause you a PR headache in the U.S.? Why is every manager terrified of the Ides of March in China? And can you picture a situation in which you as a crisis communicator write the words “have a truck full of money ready”? These true stories will open your eyes to how an issue far away can ignite into an international PR crisis — and offer ideas for how to extinguish it.

Take a look at the Dow 30. There isn’t a single company left that’s “All-American” — they all have operations abroad, and in some cases the bulk of their profits even come from abroad. And by abroad we don’t mean Mexico and Canada…now look at the Fortune 500: Of the top ten companies on that list, three are from China! The remaining American ones — Apple, Exxon, Berkshire Hathaway and Walmart — all depend on what happens abroad too.

Webinar participants will learn a simple set of suggestions for how to deal with a global PR crisis.

1. SAY SORRY. Prepare an apology, and prepare yourself for making an apology, even if you did nothing wrong.

2. STAND BACK. Let your local teams take the lead in their markets, no matter how much you think your approach may be better.

3. SPREAD THE WORD. Don’t rely on distance or language barriers to stop a story from spreading. Instead, keep your international media contacts close and approach them proactively with your version; they’ll prefer to use it instead of doing the translation themselves.

4. SAME STANDARDS. This should be your go-to phrase whenever you have to explain what’s going on somewhere to an audience somewhere else, so that everyone knows they are being treated equally: “We apply the same rigorous standards” — whether it’s for customer satisfaction, data security, employee safety or working conditions — whatever the crisis is about. And if it’s not true, it’s your goal to convince your company to make it so (a few crisis trainings may help!).

5. SPARE BATTERY. Keep one handy for when your phone’s juice runs out, as one country is going to sleep but the crisis continues in another that’s just waking up!

By the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Understand how a faraway local PR issue can turn into a global PR crisis affecting their home turf.
  • Identify the different characteristics of local/national and international PR crises.
  • Consider cultural differences that need to be taken into account when solving international PR issues.
  • Make a simple plan to respond to an international PR issue that complements their existing crisis management approaches.


Asen Geshakov,MA, Public Relations Officer, Home Credit International, a.s.


Participants with the APR credential earn 0.5 CEUs for a webinar. Learn more about Accreditation renewal.