PR Crisis Spotlight: Huawei

Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei has held a permanent hot seat of late, amid US government attempts to convince governments all over the world that doing business with the Chinese giant is bad news.

Huawei certainly has its work cut out for it and faces an uphill battle convincing governments, technology partners and customers alike that its products and infrastructure are not as sinister as the White House would have them seem. Below is an analysis of the unfolding issue.

Huawei claims it is being unfairly targeted by the Trump administration in the form of proxy war on the sidelines of major US-China trade negotiations. The telecoms giant also claims that security allegations against the firm are baseless, though the charges may have irreparably damaged the firm’s relationship with technology partners as they already began to distance themselves from Huawei.

Several technology suppliers, including chipmakers Intel, Qualcomm, and Broadcom, have begun to cut their deals from Huawei, while the owner of Android, Alphabet Inc., has pulled the company’s licenses for key mobile applications like Gmail and the Google Play app store. For customers, the move has been a personal one; just for owning a Huawei handset, they are now locked out of future software updates.

Despite being on the backfoot, Huawei seems to be handling the situation relatively well.

“Being drawn into Donald Trump’s crosshairs is most companies’ worst nightmare, and so by choosing to combat the accusations directly through its robust spokesman, Huawei deserves credit for not hiding and hoping the storm dies down,” says Pagefield CEO Oliver Foster, “Whether Huawei’s public pronouncements have done anything to reassure a very cynical political and citizen audience is another matter, but at least they have tried.”

Chris Gilmour, director at Beattie Communications, says he thinks Huawei has handled the crisis reasonably well, with Huawei’s UK vice president making all the right noises by getting the message out that the software ban by Google will only affect upcoming handsets. Even so, “the announcement from Google that they won’t support updates leaves them completely stuffed,” says Gilmour.

Huawei’s communications efforts to date have focused on reassuring governments and partners that its technology is, despite US allegations, completely safe. This has been underpinned by a carefully planned direct engagement strategy, involving the inviting of western journalists to tour its impressive Shenzhen headquarters. The move is no doubt designed to position Huawei as a transparent global tech innovator.

At the same time, the firm ́s CFO Meng Wanzhou remains under house arrest in Canada and faces an extradition hearing in the US. As her case unfolds, Huawei’s story is far from escaping the spotlight any time soon.

-Ronn Torossian, 5WPR CEO

Ronn Torossian is CEO & Founder of 5WPR & one of America’s most notable PR executives. He is the Author of best-selling PR book, “For Immediate Release.“

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