This week we’re looking back at telling items from the first four months of the daily Executive Communication Report: Coronavirus. Here’s April:
Edelman Trust Barometer says coronavirus is an opportunity for brands to show heart and brains. “At this moment of deepest global crisis, the public wants brands to step up, keep us safe, guide us and help us,” concludes CEO Richard Edelman in the new special report, Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic. “Brands that act in the interest of their employees, stakeholders and society at large will reinforce their expertise, leadership and trust and immeasurably strengthen the bond they have with consumers. This is a moment when brands can prove that they put people, not profits, first. Respond with compassion and make a difference; this is the true test for purpose-driven leaders. The people are counting on us to deliver.”
The weekends are the worst: You know you ought to get away from work, but you realize that work is what gets you through the days. A compromise, if you can concentrate: Read history that might lend perspective to your work, like the new book, FDR on Democracy: The Greatest Speeches and Writings of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, reviewed today at the Vital Speeches website. I just received and wiped down Erik Larson’s latest candied history, The Splendid and the Vile, about how Churchill led England through the Blitz. To the extent anyone’s looking forward to anything at the moment, I’m looking forward to reading that this weekend, with a glass of scotch.
When’s the first in-person speaking event at which you are still planning on having your CEO appear? July, is the answer of one Fortune 100 exec comms chief we know. How about you?
How are you and your staff holding up? An exec comms director told her staff they need to let her know when they need a mental health day—and they get one, no questions asked. The communication crew has been working around the clock for four weeks now, and they’re now taking turns taking days off, and filling in for one another. The exec comms chief herself? She said she thinks she’s got about seven days left in her before she needs to disengage. How about you?
CEOs have so far refrained from criticizing the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Splunk Inc.’s CEO shattered that silence Monday, in an interview with MarketWatch. “The fact that we didn’t do anything in a cohesive process is where I pull my hair out,” said Doug Merritt, whose software company manages big data for government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The government’s extremely sloppy response came from a lack of data-driven decision-making. It was a total failure of leadership.” Merritt said the federal government failed from the beginning: “We knew of the threat in late December, and had decades of plans for a pandemic. We didn’t adequately prepare facilities and equipment for our health-care professionals.” And he said the government is failing now: “Why are we holding press conferences on reopening the country, with no specifics, when we should be talking about how we plan to transition back to the economy? There is simply no plan.”
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said it will take two or three years for the company to return to normal, in an interview with CNBC yesterday. Though the airline is currently carrying 5% of its normal passenger loads, management is “confident people will begin to travel again,” Bastian said in a memo to employees: “We don’t know when it will happen, but we do know that Delta will be a smaller airline for some time, and we should be prepared for a choppy, sluggish recovery even after the virus is contained. I estimate the recovery period could take two to three years.”
Tesla’s quarterly results were lukewarm, but CEO Elon Musk’s earnings call remarks were hot. After saying the coronavirus had forced Tesla to cut costs while still investing in new technologies, Musk began to rant on yesterday’s call, according to The Washington Post. He called the coronavirus “an unexpected roundhouse,” dropped an f-bomb, called shelter-in-place orders “fascist” and demanded that political officials “give people back their god damn freedom … To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic—this is not freedom.” Musk, much criticized for making dubious promises and erratic statements throughout the coronarvirus crisis, had tweeted Tuesday night, “FREE AMERICA NOW.”
See you here tomorrow, in May 2020.