Foot (Paw?) in Mouth Crisis Management from Chinese Zoo

Erik Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, media training, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

Don’t make this major crisis management mistake

A Chinese zoo has been accused of attempting to fool visitors by placing various not-so-exotic animals in cages marked for wild animals. In the most egregious offense, a Tibetan mastiff was passed off as a lion…at least until it began to bark.

CNN was able to get hold of the park’s animal department head and, considering China’s aversion to what we would consider proper crisis management, her poor response is no surprise:

The head of the park’s animal department, Liu Suya, told CNN that the animals had been substituted for various reasons, and would be back in their rightful place soon.

The lion and leopard had both been removed for breeding, she said, with the Tibetan mastiff placed in the lion’s cage temporarily “due to safety concerns.”

Similarly, the dog had been placed in the wolf enclosure to breed a hybrid wolf-dog, she said. “We’re not doing it out of shortage of funds,” she said.

Now, this is clearly weak reasoning, if not an outright lie, but what really leapt out at us was the last sentence. One of the key tenets of crisis management and crisis communication is that you DO NOT use the very terms you’re seeking to avoid being linked to, especially when issuing statements to the press. If you say, “we’re not doing it out of a shortage of funds,” while the facts of the situation scream that you are, then all your stakeholders are going to remember is, “shortage of funds,” bottom line.

The BCM Blogging Team

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