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Technology Industry Confronts Reputational Challenges from Techlash in New Report from FleishmanHillard

June 13, 2019

Even Though Consumers Generally Trust Technology Companies, 78% of Americans and 77% of Britons Believe They Should Take More Action to Address the Consequences of Their Policies, Practices and Products

ST. LOUIS, June 13, 2019 – FleishmanHillard today released “Darlings to Damaged? Managing the Technology Sector’s Reputation in an Age of Heightened Scrutiny,” a new report assessing the reputational challenges technology companies face today, as well as potential solutions to those challenges in the future. The report follows FleishmanHillard President and CEO John Saunders’, recent discussion by the same name at the Collision tech conference in Toronto.

“Technology advancements have enabled life-saving innovations, boosted productivity, reduced the consumption of natural resources and more, but we wanted to take a step back and look at some of the unintended consequences of those benefits, and their subsequent impact on the tech sector’s reputation,” Saunders said. “Consumers are becoming more aware of data collection and how that information is being shared; tech companies are trying to address any impact they’ve had through greater collaboration and transparency; businesses are navigating through the impacts of artificial intelligence; governments are considering new ways of managing the sector through legislation and regulation. Through qualitative and quantitative research, our report explores consumer sentiment and business solutions in this current environment of heightened scrutiny.”

As part of the report, FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence™ conducted a survey and found that while there has been a lot of attention and conversation around the so-called techlash, 82% of U.S. and 79% of U.K. consumers still generally trust technology companies. That said, there is some generational and country divide. In the U.S., the younger generations are more skeptical, with 26% of Gen Z and 22% of millennials saying they lack trust in technology companies. That’s flipped in the U.K., where the older generations have less trust, with 38% of the silent generation lacking trust versus 13% of millennials.

The research did show a common path forward, with 70% of Americans and Britons saying they’d view technology companies more favorably if they were to take more action to address the consequences of their policies, practices and products. Regulation may also play an important role, with almost a third of respondents thinking that technology companies are regulated too little. Further, it was revealed that some Britons may believe American companies could learn something from the British – 60% of Britons believe that U.K. technology companies are regulated about the right amount, with only 32% saying they’re regulated too little. Fewer Britons, 54%, believe U.S. companies are regulated the right amount, and 39% believe they need to be regulated more.

The report’s findings combine original research with insights from some of the world’s leading thinkers in this space, including the CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the CIO of Canada, a Harvard professor and many more.

The report explores topics including:

  • Consumers’ general level of trust in technology and generational differences;
  • Actions consumers expect companies to take to build trust in this space;
  • The role of self-regulation, responsibility and shared value in addressing the current reputational challenges;
  • The macroeconomic and geopolitical situation more broadly;
  • How regulation and legislation might play a role in rebuilding trust;
  • What actions should be taken to ensure AI is a benefit to business and society; and
  • The convenience of hyper-personalization, weighed against security risk and data protection needs

“As companies navigate the increasingly complex environment, the best approach is to commit to being transparent, and to work collaboratively with government, regulators and academia,” Saunders said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to always doing the right thing, and ensuring you’re operating with the highest ethical standards and in the best interest of your stakeholders.”

FleishmanHillard’s “Darlings to Damaged?” report includes qualitative and quantitative data. FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence™ conducted a survey among a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults each in the U.S. and U.K., 18 years of age and older. The U.S. sample is demographically balanced for age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The U.K. sample is demographically balanced for age and sex. The surveys were fielded online in April and May of 2019.

About FleishmanHillard
FleishmanHillard specializes in public relations, reputation management, public affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content strategy. FleishmanHillard was named Agency of the Year at the 2017 and 2018 North American Excellence Awards; 2017 and 2018 ICCO Network of the Year for the Americas; 2019 PRWeek U.S. Outstanding Large Agency; 2019 Holmes Report North America Large Agency of the Year; 2018 Large Consultancy of the Year by PRWeek UK; PR News’ Best Places to Work in PR 2016-2018; Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality for 2018 and 2019; PR Awards Asia 2017 Greater China Agency of the Year; and NAFE’s “Top Companies for Executive Women” for 2010-2019. The firm’s award-winning work is widely heralded, including at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and has more than 80 offices in 30 countries, plus affiliates in 43 countries.​

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,300 public relations professionals in more than 370 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and non-profits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.