A Pox on Both Your Houses: PR Pros Split on Reputation Hit from PPP Debacle

The federal government that created the flawed small-business loan program and large brands that received the money will suffer reputation damage equally, senior PR executives said in a PRNEWS survey.

Essentially split down the middle, 48 percent of those surveyed believe Congress and the federal government will bear the brunt of the reputation damage; 52 percent think the large brands who took the money will take the worst hit.  

And it doesn't matter that several of the large brands returned the money. A total of 45 percent of respondents said the large brands would take a "significant" hit to their reputations, despite giving back the funds.  And 55 percent feel the brands will be forgiven.

Under duress and embarrassed, brands such as Shake Shack, the Los Angeles Lakers (estimated value $4.4 billion), AutoNation and Ruth's Chris Steak House received, then returned, millions of dollars in government aid for small businesses.

The quickly enacted PPP effort, or Payroll Protection Plan, left many critics asking why these multi-million dollar companies even applied to a program for saving small businesses? Similarly, many wondered how Congress could botch requirements for the program, inserting loopholes that allowed global companies to apply.  

Agreement on Internal Communications

One thing a solid majority of respondents agreed on was that companies promoting philanthropic activity during the pandemic will enjoy a reputation boost. 68 percent of respondents said brands doing good during the coronavirus period will see quantifiable financial and reputation gains once the economy recovers.  

Another area of agreement concerned over-communication with internal audiences. With the pandemic lasting several months already, some argue over-communication now can be eased. Our survey respondents disagreed. 65 percent said companies should continue to over-communicate with employees.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.