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COVID-19 Crisis Presents New Responsibilities for Company Communicators, Edelman Research Finds

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A lack of trust in government and media has caused many people to ignore crucial health advice about the novel coronavirus, raising the importance of employer communications, says a special report from the Edelman Trust Barometer. Based on surveys conducted on March 6–10 in 10 countries, the research shows the following:

  • Employees trust employer communications. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer, published on Jan. 19, found that employees trust their employers far more than they trust governments or news media. Consistent with those findings, the new report says that employees consider employer communications to be their most credible sources of information about the coronavirus. And 62 percent of respondents trust their employers to respond to the crisis effectively. Employees expect employers to tell them how many of their colleagues have contracted the virus, and how the virus is affecting the organization’s ability to operate.
  • Mainstream media is still the most relied-on source of information. Even as people find their employers more credible, they rely on mainstream news outlets as their primary sources of information about the coronavirus. Younger people rely almost evenly on social media (54 percent) and mainstream media (56 percent), while people ages 55 and older find mainstream media to be nearly three times more reliable than social media. Seventy-four percent of all respondents are concerned that false information is being spread about the virus, and nearly 60 percent worry the health crisis is being exaggerated for political purposes.
  • Employees expect frequent updates. Forty-eight percent of respondents prefer to receive employer updates on the coronavirus via email or newsletters, followed by posts on company websites (33 percent) and phone/video conferences (23 percent). Sixty-three percent expect daily employer updates about COVID-19, and 20 percent want to receive such communications several times a day.

Richard Edelman, the firm’s CEO, said the COVID-19 crisis gives the corporate sector a considerable new responsibility. He recommends that chief communications officers initiate regular briefings for employees; provide trustworthy, shareable content about COVID-19; and ensure that company social media channels spread “knowledge and not panic.”

Greg Beaubien is a frequent contributor to PRSA’s publications.

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Greg Beaubien

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