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2 Crisis Management Case Studies and Their Takeaways

Crisis Management

Crisis Management


Before a crisis strikes, business owners should think about how a disaster would impact customers, suppliers, employees, the public and their company’s value. A crisis can strike a company anytime and anywhere hence advanced planning is key to ensuring the company is prepared. Let’s look at some of the most well-known crisis management case studies from the last several years, as well as what we can learn from them.


The Target data breach

A cyber-attack on Target in 2013 affected about 110 million of Target’s customers – with 41 million of customer’s payment card accounts and contact information stolen. In response, Target issued a statement the following day and posted a video with more details on its website. Although the company apologized, explained how the hack had happened, and offered free credit monitoring for affected customers, it was not done on the right channel.

Target’s response was poorly handled and this negatively affected their image. Target had to retreat some of its statements, such as the number of customers whose information was hacked, after their quick response was found to be inaccurate as the officials were not fully aware of the scope and cause of the problem. Also, the CEO message should not have been posted on their website as consumers were on social media to voice out their complaints and interact with the company. This offered a valuable lesson to Target, and others, to respond to a crisis using the appropriate channels.


The Volkswagen emissions scandal

In September 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen of manipulating its engine controls to be able to pass laboratory emissions tests. The company violated the Clean Air Act by selling vehicles that didn’t meet environmental requirements while also violating its customers’ trust by making its cars seem more environmentally friendly.

The scandal was poorly handled by their spokespersons and the mixed responses from the company negatively affected the company’s image. Statements were often conflicting and inconsistent and made the situation even worse. Consumers reported that the company seemed to be handling the crisis in a dishonest way by not fully “owning” its role in the scandal.

The brand likely would have fared better through this crisis if it had taken a few key steps:

  • Been up front and honest as soon as the story broke
  • Kept its response consistent, with an empathetic and apologetic tone
  • Reimbursed all, not some, affected customers the same amount
  • Demonstrated a commitment to change in some way (e.g., by setting new emissions goals or partnering with an environmental organization to help combat air pollution)


These case studies highlight the importance of developing a comprehensive strategy to engage and manage the media. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can cause a company or organization serious reputation damage, wipe out stock valuations, and cost individuals their jobs. Therefore, communicating messages effectively to the media is an essential part of successfully managing any organisation.


Read more here: 3 Crisis Management Case Studies We Can Learn From


Media Crisis Management is a 2-day training course held from 20 – 21 November 2018 (Kuala Lumpur) and 22 – 23 November 2018 (Singapore), designed for beginner/intermediate level spokespersons for an organization during a crisis. Participants will learn how to prepare for interviews, deliver press statements, and manage questions effectively under pressure. The skills can easily be applied to non-crisis situations, with the focus on high pressure scenarios. For more information, contact us at .


Interested to read more media-related articles?  Check out How To Handle Difficult Media Questions and How Did Malaysia Airlines Save Its Reputation From A Media Crisis?


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