Business Risk 2020

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nicate with their audiences to stay relevant and help their customers." Paul Beadle, associate director and head of social media and digital communica- tions at MRM, a financial comms and pub- lic relations consultancy, says during a cri- sis companies should want their reputation to communicate trust and responsibility. "If you're a brand like Ryanair, which doesn't come across as being very cus- tomer focused, then it comes as no surprise when the airline starts dragging its feet over refunds for passengers. That just com- pounds a poor reputation," he says. How have the supermarkets man- aged to find this balance? "The qual- ity I'm seeing from good brands, like the supermarkets, is the sense that 'we are all in this together'," says Beadle. "Shop- pers will be tolerant if there are queues or shortages in stores, so long as compa- nies explain why and show the extra mile they and their employees are going during difficult times." Stanhope agrees that the best way for brands to demonstrate solidarity is to show empathy with their customers and their supply networks. Who this message comes from is also important, though. The same report by Opinium found 38 per cent of consumers want to hear from employees on the frontline of brands' com- munications, followed by 31 per cent who want to hear directly from the chief exec- utive or founder. Only 5 per cent and 4 per cent of those asked wanted to hear from influencers and celebrities respectively. Brand matters... more than ever The coronavirus pandemic has sharpened consumer attitudes towards poor corporate behaviour, which could make or break brands in times of crisis ow many times have we heard the word "unprecedented" in relation to the coronavirus pandemic over the past few weeks? One word that has not been quite as overused is reputation. However, plenty of brands and businesses stand to cement or lose theirs depending on their response to this crisis. And some have already been found wanting, making headlines for the wrong reasons. Companies are coming under increased scrutiny, whether it is for what they do or do not say. Reputation may be hard to meas- ure, but it becomes a valuable asset during times of crisis especially. Neil Stanhope, founder of brand agency Underscore, says: "Brand reputation is not just how your company is perceived by your existing customers, but by the mar- ket as a whole. In times of crisis, people quickly turn to what they know and trust or they work on market authority and word of mouth. "A favourable brand reputation means people not only trust your company, but they are comfortable spending what little they have with you." Every decision your company takes in the COVID-19 outbreak will be examined more closely than ever before, says Louise Ahuja, director of LouiseBcomms. Brand marketing in a crisis: Why now is not the time for silence, published in March by Opinium, shows the more vocal brands are perceived as having responded better to the crisis. It is no surprise that supermarkets came out on top for having been vocal and responding well, followed by the health- care, pharma, and food and drink sectors. Meanwhile, Opinium's research shows the top five sectors consumers think have not done anything in response to the crisis are automotive (27 per cent), fashion and beauty (26 per cent), gym and fitness (17 per cent), financial services (15 per cent) and charities (14 per cent). "Now is the not the time for silence," says Ahuja. "Even companies that have been forced to close need to find ways to commu- MaryLou Costa Business writer, specialising in marketing, tech and startups, with work published in The Guardian, The Obser ver and Marketing Week. Ahuja believes employees are now brand ambassadors. "Your reputation is in their hands, which is something all chief execu- tives and communication specialists need to wake up to very quickly," she adds. As Beadle points out: "Co-op has done well, tapping into its community roots and putting a real face to its communications, using real employees and customers." But the general public has not responded so well to billionaire businessman Sir Rich- ard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, whose plea for state aid for his airline Virgin Atlantic fell on unsympathetic ears. "The Virgin Atlantic brand report- ing about unpaid staff leave, furloughs on government money and government bail- outs to the tune of £7.5 billion has felt far removed from their celebrated promise as the 'fun, friendly and fabulous choice' to fly," says Stanhope. "While their needs as a business to weather this storm are completely under- standable, it seems the brand itself is inex- tricably linked in the minds of the pub- lic with a high-profile billionaire owner of whom they simply expect more, even in a global crisis." Of course, many companies will have to break bad news to their employees and cus- tomers, but there is a way to deliver these announcements without causing serious, long-term reputational damage. "Clear, timely and honest communica- tions to staff, customers and shareholders is critical to maintaining a firm's reputa- tion," says Louise Dolan, a partner at Cama- rco, a financial and corporate advisory firm. "If tough decisions have to be made, such as restructurings, furloughing or closures, explaining why and being transparent will show the integrity of the business and its senior staff." Keep consistent and authentic, advises Beadle. "When [pub chain] JD Wetherspoon said it was staying open during lockdown because pubs were essential, it was clearly trying to create a 'bulldog' spirit," he notes. "To then suddenly tell all its staff to get jobs at supermarkets when it was told to shut down and refuse to pay suppliers owed money, suggests its previous stance was purely driven by greed." One company that can certainly not be accused of greed is insurance provider Admiral, having stated "it isn't our inten- tion to benefit from the lockdown". It announced a stay-at-home refund to its car and van insurance customers totalling £110 million, in recognition of there being fewer drivers on the roads. "Brand is more than just the logo and col- our scheme for a company. It should be how you feel about doing business with them; so it's about a culture," Beadle concludes. "If you still feel the way about a company in a crisis as you do during normal times, then the brand is strong and shines through." Distributed in Publishing manager Reuben Howard Digital content executive Francesca Cassidy Head of production Justyna O'Connell Design Sara Gelfgren Kellie Jerrard Harry Lewis-Irlam Celina Lucey Colm McDermott Samuele Motta Jack Woolrich Managing editor Benjamin Chiou Associate editor Peter Archer Published in association with Although this publication is funded through advertising and sponsorship, all editorial is without bias and sponsored features are clearly labelled. For an upcoming schedule, partnership inquiries or feedback, please call +44 (0)20 8616 7400 or e-mail info@raconteur.net. Raconteur is a leading publisher of special-interest content and research. Its pub- lications and articles cover a wide range of topics, including business, finance, sustainability, healthcare, lifestyle and technology. Raconteur special reports are published exclu- sively in The Times and The Sunday Times as well as online at raconteur.net. The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the Proprietors believe to be correct. However, no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. No part of this publication may be reproduced with- out the prior consent of the Publisher. © Raconteur Media business-risk-2020 @raconteur /raconteur.net @raconteur_london BUSINESS RISK E M P L O Y E E E X O D U S C O N T I N G E N C I E S W O R L D O N F I R E Employees, either furloughed or simply disengaged, could be searching for something better Rapidly shifting goalposts means that contingency plans are continuously changing For leaders who have only known peace and stability, how do they adapt? 02 08 12 raconteur.net Joe McGrath H Contributors Opinium 2020 Opinium 2020 VOCAL BR ANDS IN TIMES OF CRISIS ARE PERCEIVED MORE FAVOUR ABLY Percentage of consumers who think brands in the following sectors have responded well to the crisis, compared with those who think they have heard from the brands more than usual CONSUMERS WANT TO HE AR FROM THE FRONT LINES Thinking about communications from brands in a crisis, who would you like to hear from? 38% 31% 15% 5% 4% To then suddenly tell all its staff to get jobs at supermarkets when it was told to shut down and refuse to pay suppliers owed money, suggests its previous stance was purely driven by greed I N D E P E N D E N T P U B L I C A T I O N B Y 1 7/ 0 5 / 2 0 2 0 # 0 6 6 6 R A C O N T E U R . N E T B R A N D A N D R E P U T A T I O N Art director Joanna Bird Digital content executive Taryn Brickner Design director Tim Whitlock Employees on the front line Chief executive/founder Third-party experts Influencers Celebrities 100% 60% 20% 20% 40% Net percentage who say they have heard from brands more than usual Supermarkets Automotive Gym and fitness Food and drink Pubs and restaurants Households goods Social media Charities Entertainment Financial services Fashion and beauty Healthcare and pharma Retailers Net percentage who believe brands have responded well to the crisis 60% 80% 100% 80% 40% 0% Morag Cuddeford-Jones Journalist, editor and broadcaster, specialising in marketing and business Marianne Curphey Award-winning financial writer, blogger and columnist writing for various publications, and former staff at The Guardian and The Times. Cath Everett Journalist specialising in workplace, leadership and organisational culture, with a focus on the impact of tech on business and society. Nichi Hodgson Author, broadcaster and journalist specialising in civil liberties, gender and equality issues, and author of The Curious Histor y of Dating. Joe McGrath Financial journalist and editorial director of Rhotic Media, with work published in Bloomberg, Financial Times, Dow Jones and Financial News. Oliver Pickup Award-winning journalist, specialising in technology, business and sport, and contributing to a wide range of publications. Mark Piesing Technology and culture journalist and author, with work published in BBC Future, The Guardian and the i paper. Mark Taylor Journalist and author, specialising in compliance, regulation and white collar crime.

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