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We need to talk

A pandemic is raging. Your industry is tanking. Your management’s and board’s primary concern is the survival of the company – to live and fight another day. Cost cutting is the clarion call of the day.

And soon, you zoomed in on public relations / communications. “That’s a cost centre!”

You called your Communications team and PR agency in to tell them of the need for budget cut and reduced head count.

A logical decision … but, is it? Let’s take a look…

Reason 1: We want to lay low so there is no reason to communicate now.

In any relationships – business or personal – we need to keep the communications going.

Think, if you want to save your rocky marriage do you stop talking to your spouse? Won’t it be logical to identify and enlist allies so that a good word can be put in to change and contain negative perceptions?

Good times and bad times, particularly the latter if you ask me. Keeping quiet and waiting till something good turns up is not the best of strategies.

Even if you don’t talk others will – your associates, competitors, industry observers – and their opinions will make their way to the public domain, without your consent.

So, won’t it be better if your stakeholders hear it from the horse’s mouth?

Reason 2: I have nothing new to say

Communications is not about having something new to say all the time. It is about keeping the channels open, keeping those who matter in the loop, telling your side of the story before others tell it for you.

No one likes to be kept in the dark. This is particularly so if your organization is public listed.

Gone are the days when you hunker down and carry on. Instead, it is to your advantage if you keep your audiences updated.

Reason 3: I don’t want to talk to the media at this time

Communication is not confined to the media. The media is not your only audience neither is media announcements your sole means to communicate.

There are others in the eco-system who can shape opinions and perceptions – analysts, associates and peers. To these interested group, you could talk about …

  • How your company is coping with the challenges

  • Measures taken to pre-empt potential negative

  • What remains unchanged and what have to change

  • Victories and positive news however small they may be

  • Focus on key staff in the different business segments, their dedication and positivity

Reason 4: I don’t want others to know how I am doing. I don’t to blow my own trumpet.

You are not chest thumping. Rather you are being honest, open and reaffirming. You are signalling that in spite of it all you and your team are fighting and carrying on to the best of your ability.

Communications encourage your stakeholders to come on board and cheer you on as you navigate these challenging times together. They are part of the team and everyone is in it together. You win, they win, you fall, they fall.

In short, you cultivate allies and neutralize critics by keeping your communication channels open.

Reason 5: I have no budget to organize events to keep my stakeholders in the loop

In today’s digital age, communications take a myriad of forms, from the most basic electronic newsletters to video mails to virtual town halls. All it takes is technology and some dedicated time.

The bottom line is you have to keep talking and keep engaging. Sticking your head in the sand until the storm blows over is no longer an option.

Reason 6: I can talk and ramp up again when things get better

Think. When the situation gets better, every other company will want to talk and hold activities. How much easier and faster it would be for your company to retain your pole position if you had kept the conversation going. You don’t have to jostle for a share of voice because your voice has always been there.

So, while how you regard your public relations/ communications team (as an asset or a liability) is your pejorative, the one factor that does not change is – you have reason to talk.

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