B-M Study Pinpoints Key Crises Facing Businesses

Burson-Marsteller’s 2015 EMEA Crisis Survey revealed new and innovative business models into their market were viewed by respondents as a key risk amongst other leading factors

Global public relations and communications firm, Burson-Marsteller, has unveiled the results of its 2015 EMEA Crisis Survey which reveals the changing nature of crises facing businesses. The study found that in the past 12 months, ‘controversial company developments’ were the type of issue most frequently encountered.

Next in line as a cause for crisis is the entry of new and innovative business models into the market. The aforementioned triggers are followed by the numerical order of logistical difficulties, online or digital failure, negative social media campaigns, and regulatory scrutiny.

When the same group was queried on the next six to 12 months, the phenomenon of new and innovative business models entering their sector topped the charts, with the arrival of ‘disruptive innovators’ observed as more likely than any one of the other traditional crises experienced in the previous year.

On the matter of disruptive innovation, which is clearly the focus of attention for business leaders, the research indicated that 73 percent of those surveyed saw new market entrants or innovation business models to have emerged over the past three years as success-threatening.

Meanwhile, 21 percent were reported to have encountered a dilemma relating to new or innovative business models in the past year. Further findings noted how the threat of crisis is presently at its highest since 2009, with 49 percent of brand heads having undergone a crisis at their current company.

Additionally, political risk continues to be both the source of as well as an amplifier during a crisis, with 25 percent of businesses having tackled a crisis resulting either from intense regulatory or political scrutiny, whereupon governments and regulators rose as the most feared actors.

Finally, the assessment also highlighted how businesses are becoming increasingly vigilant of digital challenges, whether in the form of new media campaigns or data security. Supporting the theory is the premise that businesses now have a digital crisis communications plan, a factor which measured in at 49 percent, up 10 points from 2013.

The appraisal reflected that one in five businesses has been in crisis due to online or digital security failure. Burson-Marsteller began the bi-annual crisis survey in 2009. Penn Schoen Berland conducted a total of 426 online interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa amongst business-decision makers in August 2015.

The respondents, split between large enterprises and SMEs, were: (1) aged 25 or over, (2) full-time or self-employed business owners, (3) have the final or significant decision-making power in their business, and (4) have business decision-making authority for at least a department, if not their organisation as a whole.

“The findings of our survey emphasise we are living through a particularly disruptive era with communicators facing a perfect storm of challenges.  The upturn in the global economy has seen new brands enter old markets and small innovators rapidly expand, challenging traditional brands and industries,” Jeremy Galbraith, CEO for EMEA and Global Chief Strategy Officer of Burson-Marsteller.

“At the same time, the online revolution means cyber hackers can access data and armchair campaigners, so-called clicktivists, can protest from their living rooms.  And this is all set against a backdrop of massive erosion in the trust the public places on the words and actions of big business.”