New research analyzing the role of high-stakes leadership in today’s Post-B2B world—where the lines between B2B and B2C marketing are blurred, end-user and consumer audiences collide, and high expectations towards all brands are persistent—reveals that 8 in 10 business leaders would end a relationship with a partner based on the failure to address high-stakes communications issues, such as data security, income and wage gaps, or sexual harassment, among other wide-ranging issues.

According to a new report from global comms agency Hotwire, 82 percent of consumers say they would consider dropping a brand if it were associated with a partner or supplier that handled a high-stakes issue in a way that violated their values.

“Every day we see headlines that bring companies to their knees,” said Sahana Jayaraman, EVP and global head of strategy and marketing services at Hotwire, in a news release. “From #MeToo to gender diversity, to pay equity, the list is endless. The reality is that we live in a high-stakes era in which every issue can be ‘the issue’ that shapes your reputation. Consumer expectations toward brands are changing, and unlike before, the pressure to take a stand on values exists now for B2B and not just B2C.”

Nearly 50 percent of consumers have switched a product or service because the company violated their personal values:

B2B brands aren’t prepared for today's high-stakes issues—how to get ready

The new report turns to a mix of marketing leaders, business decision makers and consumers to determine how high-stakes leadership can impact the business’ bottom line, specifically exploring how a brand’s grasp on its core values and its preparation for crisis events can play a role in mitigating the negative backlash of a crisis.

According to the research, nearly 60 percent of senior marketers have been involved in a high-stakes communications event either at their current or previous organization, and nearly 70 percent of business leaders worry about a high-stakes communications event. On top of this, half of marketers (50 percent) agree that having clearly defined values is the number one thing they can do to prepare for a high-stakes event. With only 31 percent of senior marketers and 22 percent of business leaders citing that their company has core values that would fully guide them during a high-stakes event, it’s no surprise why brands are worried. According to 65 percent of marketers and 63 percent of business leaders customer loss and brand reputation rank as the two most prevalent concerns in the event of a crisis.

While most marketing leaders have got a high-stakes communication plan they can turn to if trouble strikes, just over half say their plan is up-to-date or in the middle of being updated:

B2B brands aren’t prepared for today's high-stakes issues—how to get ready

When it comes to preparation, the data indicates that marketing leaders are not as prepared as they should be, although 78 percent of senior marketers say that high-stakes issue planning is at least as important as any other factor in their marketing and communications plan. However, 45 percent of marketing leaders don’t have a current high-stakes communication plan in place. Yet less than half (48 percent) of the marketers surveyed feel that their company’s communications reflect core values a majority of the time, and 53 percent say they’re vulnerable to damaging impacts of a high-stakes communications event.

B2B brands aren’t prepared for today's high-stakes issues—how to get ready

In terms of putting a stake in ground on high-stakes issues, 61 percent of senior marketers and 57 percent of business leaders say their organization should do more to take a stand on key issues.

Importance of values in a Post B2B world

When it comes to consumers, nine out of 10 are conscious of their personal values and are prepared to align them to their spending habits. Over three-quarters (76 percent) of consumers make an effort to buy products and services in line with their beliefs. On the flip side, nearly 50 percent of these consumers admit to having ditched a product or service because the company violated their personal ideals.

61% of marketing leaders say their organization should take more of a stand on high-stakes issues:

B2B brands aren’t prepared for today's high-stakes issues—how to get ready

Of the many high-stakes issues that consumers want companies to take a stand on, the top five global interests include protecting the environment (26 percent), sexual harassment (23 percent), climate change (22 percent), data security (21 percent), and income and wage gaps (21 percent). In the U.S. specifically, the top three concerns among consumers include immigration (44 percent), income and wage gaps (38 percent), and political corruption (37 percent).

“Brands must be prepared for anything and everything—if they find themselves debating until the last hour when an issue strikes, they will suffer hard,” Jayaraman said. “However, high stakes-issues don’t just pose threats, but also present huge opportunities. If brands are clear on their values, and know where they stand on issues as an organization, then they will be better prepared to navigate swiftly through a high-stakes issue.”

Read the full report, High-Stakes Leadership in a Post B2B World, here.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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