Getting It Right From the Start: How the Initial Crisis Response by Scandalized Organisations is Critical to Repairing Reputational Damage

Sasha Grebe


Purpose: This paper draws on the case study of AWB and the United Nations Oil-For-Food scandal to examine the importance of the initial crisis response strategy for a scandalized organisation in framing the perceptions of stakeholders to the rebuilding of a damaged corporate reputation.
Design/Methodology: The AWB case study is a perfect opportunity to highlight the differences between apologia and apology in post-crisis communication and reputation management.
Findings: In seeking to avoid genuine reform of itself and the regulatory it operated in, AWB caused itself further reputational damage. This demonstrates the importance of getting an apology right from the outset.
Research: The Royal Commission established by the Australian Government examined in great detail the approach taken by AWB to the “Oil-For-Food” “kickback’ scandal.
Practical implications: There are numerous studies of corporate scandals and why they occur but the AWB case study provides a unique case study into post-crisis communication and how organisations can respond effectively to corporate scandals.
Original value of the paper: The unique insights gained from the Australian Royal Commission investigations into AWB clearly show that the company initially tried to stonewall or manage through the impacts of the scandal without a genuine contrition and commitment to reform. As the National regulatory Affairs Manager, and Government Relations and Trade Advocacy Manager employed by the new management team, the author was intimately involved.


corporate scandal; reputation management; crisis-communication; public apology; post-crisis response; Oil-For-Food scandal; AWB Limited.

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The University of Newcastle
ISSN - 1839-8227