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July 08, 2020

Anna Ruth Williams



stack of newspapers on top of a table

Prior to the Coronavirus, only 45% of corporate communicators admitted to having a crisis communications plan in place. Fast forward through the last four months of widespread illness, Main Street shutdowns, historic unemployment and social justice protests - and crisis comms has emerged as one of the most important functions of corporate marketing. 

In fact, a recent global PRovoke Media survey found that businesses are now selecting crisis and corporate comms within the top three services they are seeking from PR agencies. I can attest to this, as demand from tech companies for ARPR’s crisis comms services has jumped 45% in just the first half of 2020.

A Mountain of Issues for Tech PR Firms to Help Manage

The obvious external forces impacting tech brands - COVID-19 and a tense socio-political climate - have given way to a bevy of more acute issues that require reactive PR strategies. These include:

  • Workforce reductions due to negative economic impact

  • Foreign workers on skilled-worker visas, which IT enterprises rely heavily on, have been greatly reduced due to COVID policies (more)

  • A larger-than-anticipated spike in data breaches due to teleworking (more)

  • An emerging mental health crisis has resulted in employee suicides and a rise in HR incidents (more, more)

  • High rates of CEO turnover as economic and social pressures mount (more)

  • Office closures as tech companies realize the cost savings of a remote workforce (more)

  • Rise in employee lawsuits 1) related to COVID-19 precautions/exposure (more), and 2) the BLM movement has allowed employees to feel safe speaking up, much like we saw in the wake of the #MeToo movement (more). 

  • Proliferation of insensitive, inappropriate and inauthentic social media posts made by brands, executives and employees (more)

Unfortunately, as we inch closer to Election Day, face a potential second wave of the virus, and await hurricane season - this list will only grow longer.       

Exacerbating Conditions for Increased Crisis Comms

As if this isn’t enough, tech PR, marketing and HR professionals have to respond to these situations amid unprecedented media conditions. 

First, the news cycle has been relentless this year. By late March I told ARPR’s team that I had never seen a news cycle move as fast in my career. This makes it near impossible to anticipate “what’s next” and exponentially more difficult to work with journalists who are facing extreme pressure and deadlines.

Second, since the emergence of social media platforms, companies’ time to respond to a crisis has shrunk to mere minutes. But that intensity has heightened even further during COVID-19, as social media engagement is reportedly up over 60%. Employees, customers and the general public all have more time and accessibility to digital channels and are leveraging them more - for good and bad. Moreover, if not handled correctly, the digital footprint of an incident will live on search engines for many years to come. 

The lesson here is that every software company must have a multichannel crisis communications plan in place that guides press, SEO, employee, customer, and social media response strategies. 

If your company doesn’t have a crisis comms plan on the shelf or a trusted tech PR firm in your corner, contact ARPR today.