DRC Town Hall: Pandemic Gives Companies Chance to Provide Solutions, Show Empathy

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

Now is the time for companies to put people – not profits – first, in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the takeaway from a survey taken by the global public relations and marketing firm Edelman, which held an exclusive virtual town hall with the Dallas Regional Chamber on Tuesday, March 31. The Edelman Special Report on COVID-19 is an extension of the firm’s annual Trust Barometer. The survey – taken between March 6-10 – asked 10,000 individuals across 10 different countries questions regarding which sources of information they trust, how they view the private and public sector in times of crisis, and what they would like to see from them.

“We know from this research, and dealing every day with clients, that brands must be brave enough to join the fight,” said Cydney Roach, Global Chair, Employee Experience at Edelman. “People want brands to help solve problems, to protect employees and their partners. And they want brands to get very creative on how to use their products to help.”

Respondents told Edelman that on no uncertain terms: “Focus on solutions for this crisis. Do not sell to me, as you do generally. It’s not relevant at this time.”

Roach and Edelman Southwest General Manager Jorge Ortega walked through survey data that indicates respondents have come to distrust traditional media outlets and government over time, while trusting their employers and private sector more.

Roach said that sets the stage for companies to focus on their organizational purpose, to serve their customers and the public in an empathetic manner, and to avoid the appearance of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of my clients is a fintech company, so they are in finance and they are a technology company,” she said. “Their purpose is to democratize finances for everyone. They are really digging deep to look at how they are applying that principle to questions of employee impacts. How they are going to support some of their partners and their vendors?”

By demonstrating empathy toward employees and clients during the pandemic, companies will build goodwill and trust (referred to as “trust equity”) into the future, Roach said.

Roach urged business leaders to read a letter to shareholders from BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who wrote that it’s in all companies’ interest to act with sustainability in mind, focusing on long-term goals. She also encouraged the audience to read Jamil Zaki’s “The War For Kindness” to learn more about practicing empathy.

During the town hall, DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey cited Toyota Motor North America as a local company whose organizational mission is geared toward public service. Toyota has helped advise Parkland Hospital in improving efficiency in both day-to-day operations, and in administering coronavirus tests.

“They’re an example of a company doing it right, all the time,” Petroskey said. “Not just when the crisis occurs. But before the crisis, during the crisis, and… after the crisis, too.”