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We at the SAS Group are very proud to have been named the winners of the 2018 Asia-Pacific Public Relations Excellence Awards for Crisis and Reputation Communications.

We were recognised for our campaign on behalf of LUSH Cosmetics Australia, which was forced to confront a serious crisis earlier in the year relating to unintentional underpayment of staff in its retail and manufacturing arms.

PR AwardsWe were very proud to work with such a great company that identified the problem, and then left no stone unturned in its efforts to make things right with its employees – including reporting itself to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Working closely with the leadership team, we were able to tell the true story in the media – that the company had discovered serious errors in its payroll system, had made a commitment to pay back its staff every dollar plus interest, and was investing more than a million dollars in a new payroll system to ensure that all underpayments were identified and the problem never occurred again.

The company’s announcement was made in a media climate which was already extremely sensitive to retail underpayment issues following a number of high-profile failures. However, with our support, LUSH took an approach that had – to that point – not been seen before. 

We devised a comprehensive communications program for their stakeholders – including a video message for staff, personal contact with unions, emails and letters to the relevant Federal Ministers and Shadow Ministers and then a detailed media statement with a full explanation of how the errors had occurred and how they would be fixed.

The result was very positive media coverage for the company and how it had managed the issue, with commentary describing the approach as "a blueprint for any business that finds itself in a similar situation".

The SAS Group – with our deep understanding of media and political communications – was ideally positioned to design and then execute such a strategy. The result was overwhelmingly positive media, which supported LUSH’s brand values by owning up to the mistake, outlining a plan to fix it, and promising to strive for better in future.

The keys to the success of this campaign were:

1. A complete commitment by LUSH to honesty and accountability. We always advise clients that it’s the cover-up, not the stuff up, that will trip them up;
2. Genuine remorse that the company had let down its valued staff members, and a real commitment to making things right for them;
3. Seeking advice from The SAS Group early in the planning process on how to have a meaningful conversation with staff, customers and other important supporters; and
4. Placing their faith in our experienced personnel and trusting us to steer the campaign and deliver a great outcome.

Here’s what LUSH Director Peta Granger said about our support:

SAS were such a blessing to us at the biggest crisis point we had ever faced as a business. We were feeling so overwhelmed and daunted about the potential backlash from our staff, the public and the press but Lisa and Malcolm skilfully helped create and navigate a clear way forward. Their experience, wisdom and creativity kept us calm and focused on a positive outcome but also got us prepared for all possible responses.

We felt safe in their hands and they worked tirelessly at building our confidence through technical practice and empowering our plans, which certainly affected the impact of our words and the response. The whole experience was not easy, but without Lisa and Malcolm’s support and advice it would have felt and been impossible. The response was far better than expected, staff reported feeling more engaged because of the way they had been communicated to and the press reported as well as could be expected and included all key messages. We hope to never have to call on them again, but for anyone faced with a troubling crisis we highly recommend their expertise, support and services.

If you are confronting a reputation crisis (or preferably before you do), contact us to get the best advice in the Asia-Pacific.


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