Case Studies in Crisis Communications and Public Relations

A Case Study in Crisis Communication & Management

Wednesday night: MAC Strategies receives call from medium-sized (50 employees and six offices around a large state, not on the East Coast) professional services client about on-going attacks in the city’s news media. Media is reporting on the local prosecutor potentially filing a crippling criminal charge against the client. E-mail exchange captured by prosecutors is a key issue. One hour free consultation.

Thursday - Friday: Client contacts MAC Strategies’ references and hires MAC Strategies. We are in touch with client’s attorneys and client and devise a tentative plan to mitigate news reports and not incite prosecutors. We are in touch with the news media and negotiate more balanced and accurate stories.

First Weekend: Message creation, role-playing for interviews, trading communications with attorneys and researching all news reports, depositions and scenarios. Preparing for conversation with primary news media and developing positive stories for SEO and social media with our team. We immediately go to work pushing up good stories on web search engines about our client. We work with the client to strengthen the client’s web site and provide better placements for social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Monday – Wednesday: MAC Strategies has “off the record” conversation with city “paper-of-record” to provide contextual information and correct incorrect allegations. All kinds of news media are contacted to correct false information but newspaper is primary driver and we develop the strongest relationship with the reporters and editors. SEO team steps-up campaign to push up good stories about client and push down misleading and false stories on the search engines, like Google, Yahoo, etc. MAC Strategies is working with client to gather more information and create a calendar of ongoing business events to show the public and officials the client has strong community support and a strong ongoing business. We also want to make sure the prosecutor sees the client as cooperative – we work in support of the legal team’s strategies. MAC Strategies works with client for internal messages to help employees and gives everyone instructions for holding statements and what to do when the news media calls. MAC Strategies team is working for client an average of 5-8 hours each day as the situation is constantly changing.

Ongoing: MAC Strategies team creates a mid-term and long-term plan to support client’s criminal and civil legal cases, works with legal team, spends days negotiating favorable media stories or mitigates negative stories with reporters and their editors, helps devise a long term communications plan to position client as socially and professionally responsible statewide with potential employers and professional trade associations.

Client begins winning new business contracts again and MAC Strategies team publicizes successes through a rebuilt client web site that is more “searchable” and supports all of client’s PR and even government relations needs which assist business development.

(Many specific actions concerning this case are not listed here)

A Do-Over on the Grandest Scale

Major International Heavy Industries Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America and MHI

In 2005, the largest Japanese trading company was facing a tremendous challenge: How to keep its MU-2 Turboprop aircraft from being grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at the behest of multiple members of the U.S. Congress. Such action would ground hundreds of aircraft and severely taint the corporate brand, potentially damaging the credibility of all products and costing the corporation huge legal fees. Instead MAC Strategies led the campaign to correct the negative impression of the airplane held by government, the news media, and the aviation community.

Our communications team developed a comprehensive program that would target the most relevant and influential audiences by:

  • Identifying a body of credible sources that would speak to the viability and uniqueness of the airplane in any forum
  • Showcasing the airplane as safe and reliable, when operated and maintained properly. Both government and news media representatives were convinced to fly or fly in the aircraft themselves
  • Gaining congressional, local political and regulatory support for the airplane and creating a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign, the manufacturer’s largest, to encourage Science, Technology, Engineering, Science (S.T.E.M.) programs for students through a mentorship event. MAC Strategies created, and staffs, the Mitsubishi/Barrington Irving Dream & Soar Program. The nationwide presentations have reached 16,000 students as of 2015, generating positive relationships for Mitsubishi with consumers, Congress, regulators and internal audiences.
  • Interacting with all audiences during industry trade shows
  • Generating factually correct and balanced coverage of the airplane in the news media
  • Using SEO and social media techniques
  • Creating and implementing an “Ambassadors” program to empower internal resources and provide credible demonstrations at accident scenes
  • Creating a one-stop, interactive information base for the plane on several web sites and blog sites
  • Significantly increasing the corporation’s coordination and response to crisis situations, especially with aircraft accidents, while MAC Strategies covers accidents and is an on scene media contact 

The PR and Public Affairs campaign results include: Congress did not vote to ground the airplane and the FAA approved a mandated, recurrent pilot’s training program, drastically improving piloting skills and winnowing out less qualified pilots with poorly maintained aircraft. Our campaign resulted in a more positive perception of the plane (sale of the aircraft has increased even though it has been out of production for twenty-plus years and insurance and corporate legal costs have plummeted), the PR/PA campaign has helped preserve the company’s reputation as a leader in the aviation industry and a responsible corporate citizen. Aircraft owner pride and self-esteem have skyrocketed, there is a much improved safety culture for the owner’s group and the MU-2 Turboprop has become the safest aircraft in its class in the U.S., saving lives and property.

Saving American Manufacturing

In 2008, one of the nation’s largest hand truck manufacturers was facing the biggest crisis of its 62-year existence: Being forced to go out of business because the Department of Commerce granted an incredibly low tariff to an international competitor. Our crisis communications campaign was geared toward protecting the interests of the company and, to an important degree, the interests of U.S. hand truck manufacturers operating in an increasingly globalized market.

Barely three years prior, the U.S. government allowed the company and the hand truck manufacturing industry trade remedy relief for products imported from China by imposing an antidumping duty of 26.49 percent set because Commerce presumes that all companies located in China are subject to government control – the duty is otherwise known as the People’s Republic of China-Wide (PRC) rate. Commerce also grants a Chinese exporter its own rate if the company can show that it operates independently from the Chinese Government. The Chinese company falsely asserted that it was privately-owned and preliminarily had its antidumping lowered to 3.82 percent instead of the higher 26.49 percent PRC-wide rate that was appropriate for its classification. This simple move placed Gleason and the nation’s hand truck manufacturing industry in peril. It meant Taifa could command the market with its dumping prices while being subsidized by its government and essentially push other players out of the marketplace.

Having patiently taken all of the legal and administrative steps it could possibly take to urge Commerce to reconsider its decision to no avail, the company was running out of options fast. The company engaged Media & Communications Strategies, LLC in developing a comprehensive media, public and government relations campaign. Within weeks, the agency landed coverage in local newspapers in Illinois and Indiana, including a front page story. Local broadcast coverage followed shortly after with placements in the evening news at NBC and CBS affiliates. The team also put together a government relations plan, reaching out quickly to Congressman Souder, Senators Lugar and Bayh of Indiana and then-Senator Obama of Illinois. We persuaded them to write letters and make phone calls to Commerce communicating the urgency of the matter and what was at stake.

Pressured to act further, Commerce embarked on something it seldom did: The Department scheduled a visit to the Chinese company’s offices in China to verify the accuracy of its claims in filed documents. Stateside meanwhile, our efforts culminated with Gleason’s story being showcased on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. The timing couldn’t have been better. Instead of the 3.82 percent it had assigned the Chinese company, Commerce assigned the company a new antidumping duty rate - 383.6 percent.

Our efforts to get Commerce to focus on the ramifications of issuing such a low tariff to a Chinese government-owned company ultimately led the Department to a final decision that saved the American manufacturing, the livelihoods of hundreds of workers and the entire U.S. hand truck manufacturing industry.