A ‘how not to’ in crisis communications


If you want a ‘how not to do it’ in crisis communications, then look no further than WORLD’s response to the furore over its Kiwi-made claims.

Co-founder Denise L’Estrange-Corbet did a woeful job in fielding criticism that the WORLD clothing label she founded with Francis Hooper misled consumers about where its clothes are made.

Now the Commerce Commission has opened an investigation into the accuracy of WORLD’s ‘Made in NZ’ labelling on some of its t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants. This follows revelations that they were made elsewhere and repurposed in New Zealand.

How you handle a crisis can have a big impact on a brand you’ve taken years to build. All that goodwill can be severely diminished with a few ill-chosen words – or worse still, none at all. Conversely, if you handle a crisis appropriately, you can show that you’re ethical and keen to do the right thing.

Well done to L’Estange-Corbet for fronting up to the media but she just didn’t seem/want to get it.

To me, the key messages that WORLD should have proffered were:

  • We pride ourselves on our ethical trading.
  • We did not intend to mislead our customers.
  • We will immediately look for a new supply source for these few garments that is wholly NZ made.
  • The garments in question only make up about xx% of our total stock, the rest of which is Kiwi made.
  • We enjoy a great relationship with our customers and we’re sorry if we’ve inadvertently offended anyone.

There’s no one size fits all for any business in this position but there are some general guidelines.

  • Be prepared. Ask yourself the hard questions in advance. Think about your answers.
  • Front up.
  • Don’t look for excuses.
  • Show concern.
  • Undertake to investigate the issue and make changes as necessary.