Role of Government Affairs in Crisis Management -- EU Chamber GA Forum

On July 26, DaoHe President Jane Zhang was invited to deliver a keynote speech on “The Increasing Role of Government Affairs in Crisis Management” at the Government Affairs Forum Meeting held by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.

Zhang started off with an in-depth analysis of a series of recent events, and pointed out that “in today’s China, if an issue doesn’t have a significant government element to it, then it’s just an issue rather than a true crisis”. Given the unique role of the government in China and the increasingly complex crisis context faced by MNCs, Government Affairs (GA) plays, and should play, a more critical role in companies’ crisis management.

When handling a crisis, Zhang explained, GA contributes at both the strategic and tactical levels.

At the strategic level, GA professionals should use their insights into China's policy environment and government priorities to help the company analyze the nature and causes of the crisis, and incorporate these strategic judgements into the company’s crisis management strategy and action plans.

At the tactical level, GA’s primary responsibility in a crisis situation is to handle communications with government departments and officials. To do so effectively and efficiently, it's critical that GA professionals tailor their messages and approach based on a solid understanding of the concerns of the various government stakeholders.

"The best crisis management is to proactively reduce the possibility of a crisis," explained Zhang. In crisis prevention and preparedness, GA professionals should be able to anticipate upcoming macro and industry policy changes, analyze and alert the company to the potential impact on its business operations, and provide recommendations on necessary adjustments with the aim of reducing and/or avoiding risks likely to be brought about by the policy changes.

In the aftermath of a crisis, GA professionals can help “turn crisis into opportunity”. Based on their deep understanding of government priorities and concerns, GA professionals can help the company develop and execute targeted reputation recovery strategies and action plans to not only repair any damage but do so in such a way that makes a positive impression on and establishes better long-term relationships with key government agencies.

Zhang further emphasized that "the most effective reputation recovery plan should be developed and incorporated into a crisis management plan while the crisis is still ongoing, rather than simply being considered after the crisis has been resolved."