Access to accurate, timely and trustworthy information is essential to the mobilisation of people when a critical event happens, particularly to combat the often misleading or inaccurate news from social media channels, according to new research from Everbridge, the global leader in critical event management (CEM). With 42% of UK citizens using social media for information during the coronavirus crisis, but only one third of respondents agreeing that it’s trustworthy, it is clear that proactive, efficient critical event management plans are more vital than ever.

These are amongst the findings in Everbridge’s ‘Clarity out of Chaos’ report, published today, which revealed five prevalent themes:

  • A business can be the single point of truth for CEM management
  • Employees expect more information, more often
  • Targeted communications outweigh privacy and security concerns
  • Employees are more disparate and diverse than ever
  • Businesses are missing key channels of communication

The research, which was carried out in March 2020 with 9,003 employees across 13 geographic markets in Europe and Asia, including the UK, aimed to explore the current trends and habits of communication that can impact the success of critical event management.

Javier Colado, Head of International at Everbridge, said: “The research indicates the important role that businesses have in critical event management, and the reliance that people place on their employer to keep them informed and updated throughout a crisis or business disruption. Never has this been more important than right now when we are faced with the enormous challenges of the coronavirus outbreak. With our upcoming launch of CEM in Europe, we believe this research indicates the need for organisations to have access to risk data from multiple sources in near real time, to rapidly and seamlessly determine the relevance of a threat, track the execution of response plans and procedures, inform stakeholders, and to analyse their performance to provide ‘clarity during chaos.’”

Businesses Can Be Single Point of Truth

Overall, the research found that the bigger the company, the more they were trusted by employees as a source of truth. 56% said that they found their employer to be a reliable source of information during an incident, while in larger companies of over 1,000 employees, this number rose to 61%. In fact, only 11% of respondents said that they thought their employer was unreliable in this regard.

Nearly 23% of businesses, though, have no alerting system at all, according to the research. Amongst those that do, there is a reliance on email as a primary communication channel, with 25% saying that they have email notifications in place. As IT/telecom outages represent 49% of CEM plan activations according to a BCI study, and the vast majority of malware is delivered by email, the dependence on it has the potential to be unreliable for many businesses.

More information, more often

Despite 71% of all respondents indicating that they would be ok with constant, regular updates on several channels in any situation, nearly 70% said they only have one channel in place. Three quarters felt that alerts should be sent out to anyone in the area affected, and 79% of UK respondents would like an ‘all clear’ message when the danger has passed.

Over 32% of organisations are activating their critical event management plan within five minutes, however 58% said the biggest challenge is gathering, validating and sharing accurate information. Ultimately, only 23.5% of respondents believe their employers are doing enough to alert them to critical events or business disruptions.

Privacy and Security

Surprisingly, a low number of respondents are concerned with privacy or security when it comes to alerting systems. Less than 10% said that they would not share any data with their employer, particularly those working in large organisations. Nearly 54% would share their personal phone number and 46% would share their personal email. Contrasting sharply with this, only 24% would be willing to share their social media accounts with an employer to facilitate alerting.

Amidst the current crisis due to COVID-19, a significant finding revealed most respondents were less likely to share GPS data with the government to facilitate alerting, with 8% being concerned with the government’s ability to manage security, compared with nearly 32% who would be willing to share GPS data with their employer.

It is a fact, however, that during coronavirus, the Government, NHS or other healthcare organisations can make contact by phone, email or text to ensure citizens receive important public health messages, and they do not need consent to do this. Employers also have a legal duty to protect their employees.

Disparate Workforce

Currently the vast majority of the workforce are located at home due to the coronavirus crisis, however, under normal circumstances more than 60% of employees don’t even work within traditional office locations. One third of respondents said that they are either on the road travelling or on-site with clients, and this is a trend that is set to continue. Just over a quarter (27%) of employees in larger organisations also cited some difficulty with day-to-day activities due to a health problem or disability.

Communicating effectively with remote employees, or those with specific needs, must be part of the planning process when it comes to building a critical event management programme.

Missing Communication

Email is also not the most trusted form of communication, with over 61% of respondents trusting a TV channel, and 60% trusting radio compared to 47% that would trust email. This lack of trust has been heightened in recent weeks following the rise in phishing and ransomware attacks using email, with cyber criminals exploiting unprotected home computers and devices while people are working remotely.

Despite social media being ranked lowest for both trust and reliability – less than a third (30%) of UK respondents agreed that it was reliable – it has often been used as a key channel for communicating during natural disasters or adverse weather events.

In terms of who provides information during a crisis, 77% of respondents said that they find local emergency services reliable, in fact, local authorities (including police, government and other services) were all considered reliable. A large proportion of respondents (60%) also said that they depended on their employer as a trusted source.

The research found that mobile communications (i.e. App/Voice/Text) messaging is regarded as an excellent channel for communication with 72% of UK respondents opting for this compared to other channels.

To download the Clarity out of Chaos Report 2020, please go to https://cem-europe.everbridge.com/.

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