The coronavirus has exposed the soft underbelly of trust. We do not believe our government officials. We are worried about the quality of information in media. We are getting confusing news flashes, such as Chancellor Merkel’s pronouncement that 70 percent of Germans will contract the disease, an estimate that is three-and-a-half times higher than those made by the World Health Organization. But we are also getting very pointed statements from the WHO declaring that COVID-19 is now officially a pandemic.
It is our mission to help people make decisions on the basis of facts, not rumors or fake news. We know that “my employer” is the most trusted source of information. That is why we are arming our clients and the broader business community with a new tool, a platform that is regularly updated with the latest from the private sector. It is called the COVID Business Action Platform, created in partnership with the World Economic Forum and reachable through weforum.org.
Our dashboard will provide an aggregated public data source on critical topics such as:
- Office closures
- Travel policies
- Policies on business conferences
- Workers tested positive for the disease
- Employee Support Measures (hotline)
Our aim is to create a place for the business community to cross-check its policies against companies in an industry sector or country. It will be a reference point for decisions. This is our contribution to the fight against this disease. Thanks to all of the COVID-19 team members at Edelman and WEF who are working at top speed to develop this tool.
Earlier today I heard this update from Jeremy Farrar, CEO of Wellcome Trust, who addressed 450 top executives on a World Economic Forum call: “The shift from an epidemic to a pandemic by WHO indicates the next phase in this disease. Nobody should think that the change in seasons will save us. The disease is spreading in every climate condition and in every country. The actions of all of us as individuals and as companies will make the difference; it is time to double our efforts at containment. We live in an unequal world; at this difficult time, it is essential that we support our colleagues and countries with less means. There are two big asks of all of us and the private sector. First, support the WHO and health care workers around the world and in our communities and ensure access to essential personal protection equipment for them in all countries. Second, invest in critical research and distribution of diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines to prevent and treat this infection. But we all need to step up and act in solidarity and unity. This is a test of the sort of world we want to live in. The future is in our hands. We are not passive observers of history; the private sector can make a huge difference with its global scale, financial means and management expertise.”
The crisis caused by COVID-19 is the kind of profound shock that should make companies reconsider their business models to ensure that they contribute to a better outcome in the next couple of months. This is the time for business to adjust its approach and become more strategic and less operational and focus its planning on the long term.
For instance, the financial services industry must look at ways to provide financing for restaurants hotels and others temporarily hurt by the disease, while the consumer packaged goods sector must explore new options for the distribution of food during times of crisis. And it will be the role of communicators to explain how products and services have changed for the better and how they can be best utilized. This is a test for business, and it’s one that it must pass.
Richard Edelman is CEO.
All information in this article was accurate at the time of posting.
Edelman is supporting businesses and organizations looking to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic and its public health implications; manage communications with employees and customers; and receive guidance on strategies and policies for effective preparedness and response efforts.
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