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Consumers Uncertain about Their Safety as Health, Financial and Discrimination Issues Compound the COVID-19 Crisis, According to FleishmanHillard Study

July 22, 2020

71% of Consumers are Afraid That Restrictions in Their Communities are Being Lifted too Quickly;
82% Say the World now Seems Like a Riskier Place

ST. LOUIS, July 22, 2020 – FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence practice today released the results of a new study, COVID-19 Mindset: The Collision of Issues. The report analyzes the inflection points taking place around the world as consumers’ thoughts and approaches to their health and finances shift, and expectations for their government, community, employers and each other change.

“Our April 2020 study, COVID-19 Mindset: How Pandemic Times Are Shaping Global Consumers, suggested that it’s crucial in the eyes of the consumer for employers to take good care of their employees,” said Natasha Kennedy, senior partner and global managing director of FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence practice. “The Collision of Issues study goes one step further, examining consumer perceptions not only of COVID-19, but a myriad of issues facing consumers around the world today. We must understand what we expect of institutions and of each other and how these issues are reshaping our perceptions, behaviors and values to move forward. There’s a universal expectation right now that institutions will commit themselves to doing the right thing.”

The enduring presence of COVID-19 and its economic shocks, along with systemic racism, social injustice and other issues have put the world on edge; the study aims to unwrap the issues of today and examine consumers’ current views.

“The collision of issues has increased scrutiny of companies, brands and leaders. Going forward it is absolutely vital for organizations to not only commit to doing the right thing, and do so with compassion and empathy, but to act on that commitment in alignment with clearly defined values,” said Peter Verrengia, senior partner and head of FleishmanHillard’s Recovery and Resurgence practice. “Consumers and employees are surrounded by uncertainty and want to know that their employer and the brands they love share their values.”

With recent data from seven major countries, the study shows:

The pandemic has continued much longer than many anticipated and is leaving a significant impact on almost every area of our lives. Trust is eroding in our sources of critical safety information, and consumers are questioning everything.

  • 71% are afraid that restrictions in their communities are being lifted too quickly for economic reasons and there will be an increase in the infection rate.
  • People are questioning how we live safely with each other, with 82% saying the world now seems like a riskier place and 56% seeing the people around them as more dangerous than before.
  • Trust in the organizations responsible for providing critical information on safety and testing has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic. Consumers want to hear from public health officials and scientists the most (51%) for this guidance, while only 39% of consumers want to hear from the government, pharmaceutical/healthcare companies (24%) and their employers (15%).

There is no absolute fix or solution to feeling safe, and 80% say the pandemic has changed their view of the world.

  • The end of the pandemic is not clear-cut – only 60% say a vaccine against the virus will mark the end of the COVID-19 threat; 42% won’t feel safe until there are zero infections in their community.
  • While mask mandates are debated by national and local governments, compliance varies – 41% will wear a mask to protect themselves and others, 16% will only wear a mask if it is legally required, and 3% won’t wear a mask even if it’s required.
  • Accessibility to personal protection equipment would help some feel safer, with 49% saying dispensers of free face masks and hand sanitizers in public spaces and high-traffic locations should be developed to safeguard public health in the future.

The pandemic has shifted consumers’ outlook and how they live. Half of consumers predict it will take anywhere from five months to more than a year to return to normal.

  • Consumers report that finances are tight, with 70% saying they don’t have enough money or have “just enough” to pay monthly expenses now. Spending is being evaluated carefully; 64% say they’ve stopped purchasing non-essential items.
  • Even as we learn to live in our new reality, many are predicting a decline in areas of their life over the next six months – 34% believe their financial situation will get worse; 30% believe the overall quality of life will go down; and 28% believe their safety will decrease.
  • Nearly half of consumers will postpone routine doctor visits or elective procedures.
  • Consumers will seek the outdoors locally but are split in terms of who will be venturing into indoor public places in the next 12 months. 75% expect to go to public outdoor spaces like parks, playgrounds and pools, while 55% expect to go into the office and only 33% expect to go to school.

While COVID-19 is at the forefront of how people are living their lives, the world is also addressing systemic racism. Corporations need to take action on the issues, as employees and customers expect organizations to be values-led.

  • The issues most important to consumers are inter-connected by systemic discrimination and inequities. Discrimination and equality/racism is the top issue on consumers’ lists, with 72% rating it very important and 59% expecting companies to take a stand on it. Other important issues include access to affordable, quality healthcare (69%), public health risks (65%) and violence against women (63%).
  • 91% of consumers say it’s important for companies to show that they’re committed to doing the right thing.
  • Consumers expect CEOs to speak out and act on issues affecting their customers, employees and the communities where they do business. Top areas where they need to take a stand include health and safety measures that the company is taking for their employees and customers (51%); issues related to data privacy and security (44%); and showing how the company’s values support the values of their communities, customers and employees (42%).

“Consumers are carefully watching how organizations respond to today’s issues,” said Verrengia. “They expect organizations to do everything they can to support their workforce, lend their strength to their communities, and do what they can to contribute to a safer world. The organizations that put people first will be recognized by consumers as they seek to regain their own sense of control.”

FleishmanHillard’s global Recovery and Resurgence practice is using the findings from this latest study to help guide organizations as they reimagine their workplaces and operations.

TRUE Global Intelligence, the in-house research practice of FleishmanHillard, fielded an online survey of adults 18 and older in the following markets June 8 – 19, 2020: China (n=1,280); Canada (n=1,240); Germany (n=1,242); Italy (n=1,275); South Korea (n=1,227); United Kingdom (n=1,277); and United States (n=1,276). Data have been weighted by gender and age in all markets as well as region in the United States, Canada and China. In the United States, an oversample of n=200 African Americans, n= 200 Hispanic and n=100 LGB was added.

About FleishmanHillard
FleishmanHillard specializes in public relations, reputation management, public affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content strategy. FleishmanHillard was named 2019 PRWeek U.S. Outstanding Large Agency; 2019 Holmes Report North America Large Agency of the Year; ICCO Network of the Year – Americas 2017-2019; Agency of the Year at the 2017 and 2018 North American Excellence Awards; 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 2018-2020; PR Awards Asia 2017 Greater China Agency of the Year; and NAFE’s “Top Companies for Executive Women” 2010-2020. 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 80 offices in more than 30 countries, plus affiliates in 50 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 nonprofits 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.​