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Panic buying caused by bad communication

Updated: Jul 3, 2023


Panic buying caused by bad communication

Organisations have contributed to panic buying and panic selling by saying the wrong things, according to a crisis communication expert.

Mark Blackham, Director of BlacklandPR, today urged organisations to think carefully about what they say and do, if anything, to avoid inflaming precarious situations.

“Inexpert urging to be calm and act normally convinces people that there really is something to panic about.

“People act instinctively in a crisis to protect their lives, health and livelihoods. After years of economic ease, many organisations are completely incapable of dealing with customer desperation.”

Mr Blackham, who advised during crises such as the global financial crisis and electricity shortages, criticised the “shop normally” campaign by supermarkets because it completely failed to recognise the desperation of people.

“Supermarkets have driven panic buying because their words were weaker than what was communicated by empty shelves.

“Their claim that everything was okay actually made people believe that supplies were short.”

Mr Blackham said at the root of most failed communications was an insistence by organisations that everything was or would be okay.

“Desperation is more contagious than this virus, and uncontrollable by words. Early admission about coming pressures would have given people time to prepare – reducing panic.”

He was critical of the flood of emails from organisations to customers that spoke of their crisis response in generalities and banal positivity.

“Lack of clarity worries people – if you must communicate, do it succinctly, give a true picture, and provide clear instructions.

“You can only inspire people to rally and act as you need them to, when you tell them the truth,” said  Mr Blackham.


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