Even now, fewer than half of companies are well-prepared to handle crises: Edelman study

The research examines how executives are grappling with new risks facing their companies and how unprepared they feel to handle them.

Even now, fewer than half of companies are well-prepared to handle crises: Edelman study

NEW YORK: Fewer than half (46%) of executives say their companies are well-prepared to handle crises on a timely basis, according to Edelman's Connected Crisis Study

The study explores a business' level of preparedness for crises, and the tools and platforms they use in their response. The firm polled 900 executives in nine markets: Canada, China, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

It’s time for businesses to acknowledge that frequent, unexpected, unforeseen and disruptive events are the new norm, said Hugh Taggart, global chair of crisis at Edelman.

"Business practices, consumer values and our behaviors are profoundly and permanently changed by such events," he said. "The way we plan, build and grow our businesses in this new age of uncertainty needs to change;if businesses want to thrive, and not just survive, it requires agility, resilience and a new way of looking at crisis itself."

The study found that issues such as disinformation (57%), stakeholder activism (62%), employee activism (62%) and cybersecurity (62%) are the most-anticipated future threats by executives. three-quarters agree that the nature of digital and social platforms is making these issues harder to manage. 

More than three in four (77%) of respondents agree that communicating through press releases and scripted responses is no longer enough when responding to a crisis, only one in three executives say they are prepared to use other channels in their response.

This becomes a critical misstep when one in two respondents say different organizational functions across the company are involved in preparing for crises. Key consumer channels are often owned by marketing functions, while reputation resides with communications or corporate affairs.

When crises today are faster, more fluid and more difficult to foresee, many of the typical responses used become redundant, according to Dave Fleet, global head of digital crisis at Edelman.

"It is clear from our study that the traditional approach to crisis communications is obsolete," Fleet said. "Today’s crisis communications must be rooted in building, sustaining and repairing resilience through trust, it must be connected to culture, it must incorporate data alongside the instinct of crisis experts, and it needs to integrate up-front digital thinking that is reflective of today’s communications landscape."

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