Madano-BOLDT Study: UK and European businesses are keeping their heads down on Brexit

The first ever social media study of industry attitudes to Brexit has found that British and European companies are keeping their heads down in the Brexit debate, instead leaving communications to their pan-European trade associations. The study was conducted by London-based Madano and Brussels-based BOLDT, which have teamed up to provide a joint Brexit offering.

The study found that UK and European companies from selected countries (including EFTA members Norway and Switzerland) show comparable levels of engagement on Twitter when it comes to Brexit. But they express different concerns. While UK companies tend to focus on the sectoral impact of Brexit, their European counterparts talk mostly about the macro-economic consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Trade associations are most worried about the impact on trade, labour shortages, supply chains and regulation. The financial sector is by far the most active sector across the UK and Europe when it comes to tweeting on Brexit, with a possible sector downturn emerging as its primary concern.

“Companies across the UK and Europe are in denial about the hard trade-offs ahead with Brexit”, said Michael Evans, Managing Partner, Madano. “Analysing their social media channels, it is clear that many companies believe that Brexit is an issue for their respective pan-European trade bodies to communicate about. Given the current state of EU-UK negotiations over Brexit, we feel that this is a huge potential mistake given the vacuum that this creates. How much longer can the mantra of business as usual last?”

Michiel van Hulten, Founding Partner, BOLDT continued, “The finance, construction and food and drink industries appear to share similar concerns on both sides of the Channel. But there is a clear divergence of views in pharma, tech, energy and transport, where sector-specific issues such as the relocation of the European Medicines Agency from London to Amsterdam and the future of data protection rules are having an impact. These differences will become more apparent as the negotiations on a new trading arrangement between the UK and the EU27 get underway. And they are likely to cause tensions within pan-European trade bodies, which could lead to them breaking up or UK companies being relegated to observer status.”

Key findings include:

  • Of 1,000 top companies examined, 701 had a Twitter account, and 165 tweeted about Brexit, producing 2,440 tweets - 43% of the total.
  • 28% of UK companies tweeted about Brexit, as opposed to 26% of European companies.
  • 93 trade bodies were examined; of these 53 (57%) tweeted about Brexit, producing 3,250 tweets - 57% of the total.
  • 82% of the company tweets were on ‘business as usual’ themes – commitment to the UK, company robustness, preparation and customer support.
  • UK companies are more concerned about a potential downturn in their sector than European companies (19.2% vs 16.5%).
  • Transport trade bodies are most concerned about market access (27% of tweets), supply chain (19%), sector downturn (18%) and labour shortages (15%).
  • Trade bodies in the construction and housing industry are worried about labour shortages (40%) and supply chain (30%).
  • The pharma sector is most vocal on regulation (29%) and supply chain (28%) issues.
  • For the energy sector, regulation (43%) is the biggest concern, followed at some distance by sector downturn (17%). But the sector is more optimistic than other sectors about new market opportunities resulting from Brexit (12%).
  • Food and beverage trade bodies tweet about supply chain issues (20%), sector downturn (19%) and labour shortages 17%.
  • The tech sector frets about market access (33%) and labour shortages – but of the highly skilled variety (28%).
  • Finance is concerned about a possible sector downturn (33%, the highest of any sector) as well as market access (19%).

View findings from the study 'What do European and UK companies think of Brexit? A social media perspective'

About the study

This joint Madano-BOLDT analysis is based on research conducted by Madano’s specialist Insights team in January and February 2018, which gathered and analysed the social media activity of 1,000 of the top companies in Europe based on revenue. From this number, 701 twitter accounts were identified. It was found that 165 companies have tweeted about Brexit in 2017. The study also identified 93 trade bodies from across Europe of which 53 have tweeted about Brexit.

Madano extracted around 5,000 tweets from companies and trade bodies across the UK and Europe last year that mentioned Brexit, and it is on the basis of this sample that the analysis was made. Madano analysed key topics such as the economic, industry and company impacts across different sectors including finance, insurance, technology, engineering, energy, built environment, aerospace & defence, chemicals, pharma, industrial, transport, telecoms, food & drink and mining.