The Three Most Interesting Crisis Case Studies of 2019 – so far!


Four months into 2019 and it’s already been a fascinating year in terms of crisis management.

We have seen some companies fall hard (and continue to fall – think Wells Fargo), and some bounce back quickly from tough reputation and business threats.

Here’s the three crises so far in 2019 from which most of us can learn (or be reminded about) the new rules which govern crisis management in the digital age.

The Boeing 737 Max tragedies & the need for speed:

Boeing, the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, continues to struggle with the aftermath of two deadly crashes less than six months apart. The first was a LionAir flight leaving Indonesia in October, and the second was an Ethiopian Airlines flight leaving Ethiopia in March. 

Soon after the March crash, Boeing 737 Max jets were grounded worldwide – a big problem for Boeing and for airlines such as Southwest and AA whose fleets have significant numbers of those planes.

The crashes alone were enough to cause major damage to Boeing’s reputation, but the company’s delayed response to the tragedies caused additional damage to the brand.

A theme throughout our blogs continues to be the need for fast, prompt and effective response during times of crisis.

Boeing took five days after the Ethiopian crash to ground its entire 737 MAX fleet.

This delayed response created a distrust amongst the public regarding the seriousness with which Boeing is taking passenger safety, never mind the crashes and the resulting groundings which have led to a $1bn drop in Boeing’s revenues.

Nike’s ‘Shoegate’ & the power of an authentic brand:

In February, Duke’s star player Zion Williamson injured himself when his Nike shoe spontaneously burst open in the first few minutes of a prime-time game against North Carolina.

Almost immediately the social media universe dubbed the event ‘Shoegate’. Many were quick to blame Nike for the injury and fault the company for its apparent limp response (no pun intended!).

However, ultimately, Nike faced very few consequences from the incident.

Within two days, Nike’s stock had already rebounded to its pre-Shoegate price.  Overall, Nike’s robust reputation and loyalty from core customers prevented too much damage to the company.

Awkward Media aptly reported the biggest lesson from ‘Shoegate’ is drawn from Nike's measured response. It would have been easy to pull the shoes from shelves or hold an emergency board meeting, but they knew better. They understand that the Nike name and logo holds weight and they were smart to stick to their values and stand behind their products. 

Yearbook scandals & having a crisis preparedness plan.

The yearbook scandals surrounding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, State Senator Tommy Norment and Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggests high-profile executives and business owners should conduct ‘opposition analysis’ on their own yearbooks to assess the potential of any damaging pre-digital images.

Based on these incidents the public are not readily accepting excuses for past indiscretions that high-power individuals were simply young, naïve or excusing behavior based the amount of time that has passed.

Individuals and companies should be regularly assessing and planning for potential crises and this includes reviewing yearbooks, and any other published photos from years’ past, for anything that may be construed as a past transgression.