More than ever, brands today recognize that consumers want companies to express clearly-defined values that align with their own, and look to leaders in the private sector to take a stand on any number of wide-ranging issues, be it data security, sexual harassment or protecting the environment.  

However, a recent report released by tech PR specialist Hotwire suggests that many company leaders remain woefully unprepared to deal with a crisis, and some don’t currently have a communication plan in place to deal with a high-stakes event.

Hotwire’s report, which polled business decision makers, company marketing leaders and consumers to determine where opinions align and diverge on the private sector’s handling of social issues, found that, on the face of it, business leaders and their marketing teams appear to understand the role leadership plays in addressing high-stakes events. A vast majority of business leaders (86 percent) said they take values into account when making important buying or partner organization decisions, and 80 percent said they’d terminate a business relationship with a supplier based on that company’s failure to address a crisis issue.

Among CMOs and senior communications executives, 78 percent said that high-stakes issue planning is at least as important as any other factor in their marketing and communications plans, and 84 percent reported currently having some kind of action plan in place. 80 percent said they were worried that a crisis event would someday affect their organization.

However, more than half of marketing leaders surveyed (61 percent) believe their organization should take a more proactive stance on tackling key high-stakes issues, and nearly half of marketers (45 percent) also admitted they don’t currently have a crisis communication plan in place. Only a third (33 percent) said they work with a PR agency offering crisis management services.

Similarly, more than half of the business decision makers surveyed (57percent) believe their organization should take more of a stand on high-stakes issues, particularly citing issues surrounding data security, gender discrimination/equality and corporate social responsibility.

Hotwire

61 percent of marketing leaders believe their organization should take more of a stand on high-stakes issues. Data security (37 percent), sexual harassment (34 percent), toxic workplace culture (32 percent), protecting the environment (32 percent) and gender discrimination/equality (32 percent) were the top five issues listed.

Consumers, on the other hand, don’t appear to suffer from the same level of inaction. The report found that nine out of 10 consumers reported being conscious of how their personal values align with their purchasing habits, and more than three-quarters (76 percent) said they make a concerted effort to buy products and services in line with their beliefs.

A vast majority of consumers (82 percent) also said they’d consider dropping a product or service associated with a partner or supplier that’d handled a high-stakes issue in a way that violated their personal values, and in fact, nearly (47 percent) admitted having done so already.

According to the report, the top five issues globally that consumers want companies to take a stand on involve protecting the environment (26 percent), sexual harassment (23 percent), climate change (22 percent), data security and income/wage gaps (both 21 percent). In the U.S., consumers listed immigration and political corruption along with wage gaps as the top three issues they want companies to address.

The study also found that while U.S. companies appear to experience crisis situations at a higher rate than their global counterparts (70 percent compared to 58 percent), U.S. businesses are simultaneously less concerned about high-stakes issues than other businesses worldwide (40 percent versus 58 percent).

Finally, the report found that 60 percent of marketing leaders polled reported being involved in some form of high-stakes communications scenario in the past, the most common events involving wage gaps (26 percent), data security (25 percent) and sexual harassment (24 percent).

Hotwire’s report, “High-Stakes Leadership in a Post B2B World,” polled more than 6,200 consumers as well as nearly 690 general business decision makers at B2B and B2C companies and nearly 660 CMOs and senior communications executives at companies stationed in eight countries (the U.S. U.K., Spain, Italy, Mexico, Germany, France and Australia). Research was conducted between December and January by Sapio Research.

Hotwire is a subsidiary of Australia-based marketing and communications network Enero Group Limited.