Survey Suggests Not All Companies Ready for the Coronavirus


Rick Lyke

Executive Vice President, Public Relations and Public Affairs

In a Mower PR & PA Group survey of corporate executives, only a third said their organizations are either very or extremely ready for the coronavirus outbreak from both an operational and communications standpoint. Additionally, six out of 10 people responding said their companies either did not have a crisis communications plan or the existing plan did not have provisions for a potential pandemic.

The Mower PR & PA Group, which has been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, is actively working with a number of clients on communications efforts aimed at internal and external audiences. To take a broader look at how organizations are responding to this evolving situation, Mower surveyed corporate executives about communications and operational steps their organizations have taken. The responses from 70 business executives suggest that some companies are more ready than others for the issues the spread of COVID-19 may bring.

According to the executives surveyed, six out of 10 companies intend to change one or more corporate policies as they come to grips with the COVID-19 challenge. The most common policy changes involve restrictions on international travel, curtailing attendance at meetings and conferences, and adjusting work-from-home rules. Twenty percent of the people responding said they were not sure if their companies intended to shift any policies, while nearly an equal amount said they had no intention to shift policies.

Two-thirds of the group said the biggest communications challenge presented by COVID-19 was balancing the need to communicate with not causing unnecessary alarm. Some executives in the survey also cited concerns about the frequency of communications and providing appropriate and up-to-date information.

The vast majority of executives said their companies plan to or are already communicating with employees about COVID-19. Popular tools include regular emails, meetings, workplace signage and a dedicated web landing page. Still, one in 10 executives said their companies do not plan to communicate with employees about the coronavirus.

Companies are reporting that key audiences are very interested in COVID-19 preparedness. Surprisingly, a quarter of the executives in the survey said their companies have not yet received questions from employees. Nearly half have received questions from customers, and three out of 10 have had supplier inquiries.

When it comes to readiness and reaction to the spread of the coronavirus, the responses were very mixed based on which group the executives in the survey were commenting on. Half felt public health officials were responding appropriately to the coronavirus. Three out of 10 said public health officials were overreacting, while 20 percent felt they were not doing enough.

One unexpected finding was that 75 percent of the executives said the media were either overcovering the story or totally sensationalizing it.

The executives in the survey were much more likely to give their companies credit for acting appropriately in the face of the coronavirus. More than nine out of 10 said their organizations were taking the right steps.

The survey was conducted March 4–5. Six out of 10 companies reported that they had international offices or facilities. Thirty percent of those responding work for companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees, and half work for organizations with 1,000 or more employees.

Mower PR & PA Group has published a list of five communications and operational tips for companies to prepare for the coronavirus, which is available on the firm’s website.

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