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#8 From Bad Brew to Fresh Start: What BrewDog Teaches Us About Crisis Management?

On June 9, 2021, a group called Punks With Purpose wrote a letter saying BrewDog had a bad work culture.

Over 300 people, both past and present workers, agreed by signing the letter. They said BrewDog only cared about growing, didn’t look after worker safety, and treated new staff poorly.

Brewdog has apologised fully and pledged to do things differently, though not before co-founder and CEO James Watt sent an early memo to current employees saying the company’s

“fast paced and intense environment isn’t for everyone”.

BrewDog’s initial defensive reaction wasn’t received well.

This naturally prompted social uproar, forcing the brand to rethink its strategy.

Now, what can we learn from BrewDog’s crisis?

1. Satisfied employees are a company’s greatest asset. A company thrives when employees are treated with appreciation, respect, and trust. Values are not just statements; they need to be lived. There I said it :).

2. CEOs should not just defend but listen, learn, and act. James Watt’s speedy commitment to this approach after the letter seems very inconsistent with the internal memo.

Lesson? Internal messages often become external.

Maintain consistency in messaging to avoid further complications! 🙂

So, how should organizations address allegations of a toxic culture?

When allegations of a toxic culture hit, they hit hard, that’s why you need to have a well-structured plan in place.

Broadly, your approach should fall into two key categories—preventive measures to dodge the crisis, and responsive measures to adeptly handle any crisis that does arise.

Preventive Measures:

  1. Transparency is Non-Negotiable. BrewDog, despite its employee-friendly guise, faced a storm of backlash when the toxic work culture was exposed. Had they been more open and transparent to this issue’s potential and acted promptly from the start, the narrative could have been different.
  2. Encourage Open Dialogue: Create open channels for employee and public feedback to pre-emptively address issues. This help address concerns before they escalate into a full-blown crisis.
  3. Don’t Let Critics Dominate the Narrative. Partner with media for accurate storytelling. BrewDog should have worked closely with media outlets to ensure that accurate information was disseminated, rather than letting the narrative be shaped solely by critics.
  4. Consistent Messaging: Ensure that all public statements and messaging are consistent. Mixed messages can erode trust further.
  5. Prioritize Employee Welfare: In crises, clearly support and prioritize affected employees. BrewDog should have emphasized this more.

Responsive Measures:

  1. Quick, sincere apologies defuse crisis. BrewDog’s CEO defensive internal memo only aggravated the crisis. You need to take a step back and maintain composure when deciding the next steps, as crises can stir emotional and defensive reactions.
  2. Accept & Act on Mistakes: Crisis communication 101- “admit mistakes and commit to improvements”. This simple act can significantly help defuse a crisis.
  3. Long-Term Commitment: Crisis communication is not just about addressing immediate issues but demonstrating a long-term commitment to change and improvement.
  4. External Audits and Accountability: Consider bringing in external experts or auditors to assess the situation objectively and hold the company accountable for making necessary changes.
  5. Always Learn & Fortify: After the crisis has been resolved, conduct a thorough post-mortem analysis to learn from the experience.Use the lessons learned to strengthen the organization’s crisis communication strategy for the future.


Always put your people first.

When mistakes happen, own up to it, listen, and take action.

Words alone aren’t enough. Real change comes from action.

Every company will face challenges, but it’s how they respond that defines them.

Always stand by your values. Cheers! 🍻

Whenever you’re ready there are 3 ways I can help you:

  • Build a comprehensive crisis communication handbook.
  • Seek expert advice for ongoing crisis mitigation.
  • Prepare your team for potential crises.

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