Study uncovers a notable gap between awareness of reputation risks and robust issues and crisis management

TORONTO–The majority of Canadian companies say they aren’t adequately prepared to recover their reputation in the aftermath of a crisis, a volatile and complex situation that interferes with an organization’s ability to carry on normal business. This gap is one of the findings of a new 2019 crisis readiness survey of 625 business decision-makers commissioned by Provident Communications Inc. in partnership with Angus Reid Global.

Less than half (40 per cent) of Canadian business decision-makers polled say their company has a reputation recovery plan included in their overarching crisis communications strategy, even though roughly 60 per cent say that damage to a company’s reputation is the most difficult aspect of a crisis from which to recover.

“Companies that wait until a crisis strikes to prepare a recovery strategy are often too late to avoid significant and lasting damage to their reputation and bottom line,” said Wojtek Dabrowski, Founder and Managing Partner, Provident Communications Inc. “Advance planning and preparation is critical. Management teams would be wise to make the most of quiet times and manage their risk proactively so that when a crisis hits, they can tackle it with confidence and conviction.”

Reputation aside, respondents say that other factors that are difficult for a company to bounce back from in a crisis include: A decline in morale (33 per cent), negative media coverage (29 per cent) and increased skepticism by the media (24 per cent). What’s more, over a third (36 per cent) of those in crisis management roles agree that a crisis has the ability to financially cripple their company.

Insufficiently trained spokespeople
Communicating effectively with the media and other stakeholders in a crisis is critical to managing risk and garnering support. However, only 37 per cent of respondents focus on telling a company’s story through the media and just 13 per cent think they do a “very good job” telling that story.

“Advance preparation and training for a media interview is a must in any crisis situation, yet the study reveals that many Canadian companies are underinvesting in this key area,” Dabrowski said. “Given that an ineffective spokesperson can be more damaging than none at all, training is a priority for any organization seeking to mitigate a crisis and protect its reputation.”

Lack of diversity on crisis teams
Respondents in crisis management positions also indicate that their teams lack diversity when it comes to race, gender identification and sexuality – an important deficiency in a crisis, where a wide range of perspectives is always important. Only 32 per cent say their teams are somewhat diverse, while nearly half (44 per cent) report their teams are not diverse.

The findings suggest that organizations should foster inclusive workplaces and embrace diversity on their crisis management teams in order to identify issues more quickly and develop the most robust and proactive crisis communications strategy possible.

Social media awareness gap
The survey also reveals a disconnect between an awareness of how quickly crises can accelerate via social media, and whether companies believe ongoing social justice movements can have an impact on them.

The vast majority (90 per cent) of business leaders polled indicate that, in today’s climate, even a relatively small situation can become a full-blown crisis for any organization because of its ability to spread over social media. However, 60 per cent disagree that movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter could have an impact on their company specifically.

“Brands have to be cautious when they look at crises elsewhere and say, ‘This could never happen to us,'” added Dabrowski. “News headlines remind us every day that crises don’t discriminate based on the size of your company or the sector in which you operate.”

Provident’s in-depth Crisis and Consequences report, along with an infographic of key survey statistics, can be downloaded by subscribing to our weekly newsletter at providentcomms.com.

Angus Reid Global conducted an online study on behalf of Provident Communications Inc. of 250 business decision-making leaders who play a role in their companies’ crisis management strategies (and belong to companies with more than 500 employees). An additional 375 business decision-makers in companies with more than 500 employees were interviewed (who are not focused on crisis management) for a total of 625 business decision-makers. The crisis component of the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The decision-maker portion of the survey has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. All respondents are members of the Angus Reid Forum.

Provident Communications Inc. is a Toronto-based strategic communications agency with national and global reach. The firm is comprised of senior strategic advisers with decades of experience working with some of the world’s biggest organizations. Provident’s experts craft strategies and stories that cut through the noise and resonate with companies’ most important audiences. Provident provides strategic communications counsel to clients in a variety of industries, from financial services to technology and retail, with offerings that range from media training to thought leadership campaigns, crisis management training and counsel, executive profiling and content strategy and execution. For more information, visit providentcomms.com.

Angus Reid is Canada’s most well-known and respected name in opinion and market research data. Offering a variety of research solutions to businesses, brands, governments, not-for-profit organizations and more, the Angus Reid Global team connects technologies and people to derive powerful insights that inform your organization’s most important decisions. Data is collected through a suite of tools utilizing the latest technologies. Prime among that is the Angus Reid Forum, an opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.

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