Latest Research from IPR

Published 18th Apr 2020

Study Finds 81% of Communication Functions Are “Important” or “Very Important” to Companies’ COVID-19 Response

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused the greatest global disruption many of us have seen in our lifetimes, with more than 120,000 people infected and more than 4,600 deaths (as of March 11, 2020). It has led to travel bans and restrictions, shaken up the financial markets, and caused event and conference cancellations around the world. It has significantly impacted businesses across all sectors and tested crisis preparedness plans.

The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) worked with communications firm Peppercomm to conduct a study of 300 communications executives and senior leaders from March 5-10 to gain a better understanding of how prepared businesses were for COVID-19 and how they are handling the impacts.

More than half of respondents (52%) said COVID-19 has had a “moderate” or “major” impact on their business operations and 83% are “moderately” or “extremely” concerned about the potential impact of the virus on their companies, suggesting the virus and its effects are not going away any time soon.

Business leaders are leaning into their communication function as an essential resource to help them deal with COVID-19. More than three-quarters (81%) of respondents said the communication function is “important” or “very important” to their company’s COVID-19 response.

While most businesses have been trying their best to prepare for crisis scenarios, something like COVID-19 is unprecedented. Some 30% said their organization was “very” prepared for COVID-19 while 55% said they were “somewhat” prepared. However, almost half (44%) said their crisis communications plan did not specifically address an infectious disease outbreak. Meanwhile, 10% of respondents did not have a crisis communications plan at all.

The most trusted sources for information about COVID-19 were federal agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Prevention), and international health agencies (e.g., World Health Organization), with nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) noting they trusted these organizations “a lot.” On the flip side, they were less trusting of social media and government leaders, with 82% stating that they had “not much” or no trust in these sources.

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