By Dave Fleet for PR Daily
Businesses are navigating an unprecedented set of business and societal challenges.
From the lingering impacts of the global pandemic to supply chain disruptions, the rippling effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the energy crisis, rising costs of living, to new expectations around racial justice and diversity and debates on abortion rights, companies are grappling with a non-stop barrage from every angle, and executives are feeling the pressure.
With everything executives are facing, it is hardly surprising that crisis management has become the fastest-growing area of responsibility for chief communications officers (CCOs) and chief marketing officers (CMOs). Our 2022 Edelman Connected Crisis Study reveals that half of the CCOs and CMOs surveyed say that their crisis responsibilities have increased amidst the rising pressure for hyper-transparency and immediate action on issues.
Unfortunately, our data shows that despite this increased focus, companies are still unprepared to navigate today’s issues landscape, respond to a growing number of stakeholder groups, and protect trust in a crisis.
Societal leadership is now a core function of business. However, the sheer volume of societal issues is overwhelming companies. Across each of the 22 societal issues we examined, more than half of CCOs and CMOs are concerned about their potential impact on their brand or company.
The deluge of issues is leading to reticence among executives who face the daunting challenge of navigating the important, complex debates over when and how to engage.
One CCO recently commented to me about the “game of gotcha” that ensues within their organization as they face questions from employees on why the company is taking a position on some issues and not others. Another client reflected on the “hair on fire” decision-making process that they went through on pressing decisions.
Meanwhile, despite the prevailing view of the general public being overwhelmingly supportive of businesses working to solve societal issues, we’ve seen a recent wave of backlash against companies who have done so.
No company should feel compelled to take a position on every issue, nor should these expectations alone drive decision-making. But these dynamics do exist.
As the function tasked with building trust across all stakeholders, communicators have both the opportunity and the imperative to guide company leadership through these situations. This means treating it as part of ongoing business operations — implementing a purposeful approach to decision making, the governance to enable it, and the right data both on the issues themselves and the insights required to enable informed decisions.
Until this happens, the gap between societal expectations of companies and their readiness to navigate this landscape presents a growing risk for those who fail to deal with this tension. For more, click here.