Demand for corporate and crisis communications counsel continues to rise as the pandemic enters its second year, according to research carried out for PRovoke, the PR industry news platform.
As well as looking at business confidence and recovery, the global study, which attracted 326 respondents, asked in-house practitioners around the world which PR services they were seeking from PR firms now. Demand for crisis counsel is up sharply, with 40% of in-house respondents saying this was a service they needed from their agencies now, compared with 27% last March, 24% in May and just 19% last August, when Provoke also researched the market.
Perhaps this is not surprising given the context of the most disruptive global crisis of our lifetime. But to me, it also speaks to a more recurring trend, which I noted in the ‘pre Covid days’: the neglected need to be crisis ready at all times.
Every year, my former employer, Burson Marsteller, then one of the best-known crisis communications agencies in the world, would publish research into trends in crisis communications. When I last presented in the results in Geneva some five years ago, the bad news was that in our research base in Europe, Middle East and Africa, some 40% of firms surveyed had no crisis preparedness plans in place. It is to be hoped this number has increased since then. However, a more recent PwC survey in 2020/2021 said that if the 2800 business leaders surveyed, 95% said their crisis management capabilities needed improvement, and just 35% had a crisis response plan that was very relevant.
While it would be churlish to lambast any organisation for not being adequately prepared for Covid 19, it is probably the case that many organisations do not, until it is perhaps too late, keep their crisis preparedness and response mechanisms up to date. A Deloitte survey in 2018 into crisis management asked companies that had recently undergone a crisis what lessons they had learned: 33% said they would improve detection and early warning systems, 27% said they would invest more effort in prevention and 26% said they would do more to identify potential crisis scenarios.
So, what should companies do as a minimum to improve early warning systems and be better prepared for a crisis? Here are five top tips for baseline preparedness:
By no means is this list exhaustive but should be considered a good baseline for preparedness, and companies that put thought into crisis preparedness often ensure that issues remain issues and don’t escalate into full-blown crises. How prepared is your organisation?