Social media does not mean all crises go global

new survey on crisis communications by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer reveals 28% of crises spread internationally within an hour, and 69% within 24 hours. The accompanying report (pdf) goes on to state that there ‘is no longer such a thing as a national crisis’.

This makes some sense in the context of a report on multinationals, yet despite the reach of CNN and other 24-hour news operations, and the pervasiveness of social media, there are plenty of scenarios when crises do not go global.

These include:

  • Footprint: if the company has no foreign operations, stakeholders or relevance and where its reputation is essentially local or national
  • Language: where the language in which the company operates is little spoken outside its domestic borders eg. Japan
  • Affinity: where potential for word of mouth is limited to due to local/small-scale or weak online affinity communities.

The role of social media in spreading a crisis - Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, 2013

Source: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, November 2013


A case in point is Hoi Tin Tong, a herbal medicine retail chain based in Hong Kong that was recently hauled into the spotlight by a study finding that its turtle jelly – the firm’s signature product – has very little or no turtle shell, on the heels of a video purporting to show mouldy jelly being prepared for sale.

Covered in detail by the local press, including the venerable South China Morning Post, and the subject of considerable speculation in Hong Kong’s highly active online communities, the story has proved immensely damaging to the firm, whose founder is now talking of shuttering stores.

Despite the firm operating stores in mainland China and Macau, the story has failed to catch light in other markets.


Perhaps because the company is principally a local Hong Kong player and online/offline coverage has been principally in Cantonese, a language not understood even by most mainland Chinese.



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