LONDON, October 8, 2015 – Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm, today unveiled the findings of its 2015 EMEA Crisis Survey which reveals the changing nature of crises facing businesses.

In the past twelve months “controversial company developments” were the type of crisis most frequently encountered, with the entry of new and innovative business models into their market the second most experienced cause of crisis. These were followed by logistical difficulties (third), online/digital failure (fourth), negative social media campaigns (fifth) and regulatory scrutiny (sixth). But when asked about the next six-12 months, new and innovative business models entering their sector topped the list, with the arrival of “disruptive innovators” seen as more likely than any one of the traditional crises experienced in the previous year.

Disruptive innovation is clearly a focus of attention for business leaders with:

  • 73 percent seeing new market entrants or innovative business models in the last three years that could threaten success; and,
  • 21 percent experiencing a crisis relating to new or innovative business model in the last year.

Other findings include:

  • The threat of crisis is at its highest since 2009 with 49 percent of business leaders having experienced a crisis at their current company.
  • Political risk continues to be both the source of as well as an ‘amplifier’ during a crisis, with 25 percent of businesses having encountered a crisis resulting either from intense regulatory or political scrutiny. Once in a crisis governments and regulators are the most feared actors.
  • Businesses are becoming increasingly vigilant of digital challenges – be they in form of new media campaigns or data security. Forty-nine percent of businesses have a digital crisis communications plan – up 10 points from 2013 – and one in five businesses has been in crisis due to an online or digital security failure.

Commenting on the findings, Jeremy Galbraith, Burson-Marsteller’s CEO for Europe, Middle-East, Africa and Global Chief Strategy Officer, said:

“The findings of our survey emphasise we are living through a particularly disruptive era with communicators facing a perfect storm of challenges. The upturn in the global economy has seen new brands enter old markets and small innovators rapidly expand, challenging traditional brands and industries.

“At the same time, the online revolution means cyber hackers can access data and armchair campaigners, so-called ‘clicktivists,’ can protest from their living rooms. And this is all set against a backdrop of a massive erosion in the trust the public places on the words and actions of big business.

“Communicators need to remember the four Ps: Purpose, Plan, Predict, Pioneer. That is, Purpose should guide business, Plan how to handle a crisis in ‘peacetime,’ Predict and monitor the trends in your market and Pioneer by being innovative and bold.”

Notes for editors:

Burson-Marsteller began its bi-annual crisis survey in 2009.

Penn Schoen Berland conducted a total of 426 online interviews in Europe, Middle East and Africa, amongst business-decision makers in August 2015. Business-decision makers are defined as respondents who:
• Are aged 25 or over
• Are full-time or self-employed/business owner
• Have final or significant decision-making power in their business
• Have business decision-making authority for at least a department if not their organisation as a whole

In each country, the sample was evenly split between respondents from large enterprise businesses and from SME businesses.

Sally Dobson
+44 2073006338

About Burson-Marsteller
Burson-Marsteller, established in 1953, is a leading global public relations and communications firm. It provides clients with strategic thinking and program execution across a full range of public relations, public affairs, reputation and crisis management, advertising and digital strategies. The firm’s seamless worldwide network consists of 73 offices and 85 affiliate offices, together operating in 110 countries across six continents. Burson-Marsteller is a part of Young & Rubicam Group, a subsidiary of WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY), the world’s leading communications services network. For more information, please visit

About Penn Schoen Berland
Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), a member of Young & Rubicam Group and the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specialises in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip corporate, political and entertainment clients. PSB’s operations include over 200 consultants and a sophisticated in-house market research infrastructure with the capability to conduct work in over 90 countries. The company operates 11 global offices in Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, London, Hamburg, Madrid, Dubai, Delhi and Singapore, which are supported by in-house field capabilities and fully equipped to provide the complete creative solutions PSB clients need. More at