As the world sits in a wait and see mode as the implications of the vote in the United Kingdom to separate from the European Union unravels, there are important opportunities for global organizations, particularly those with a presence in the United Kingdom and Europe, to consider. Organizations would be well served to develop communications that address questions their stakeholders may have and more importantly acknowledge their uncertainty and that they are sensitive to these concerns. What are some of the important actions organizations should be taking in the near-term:
Acknowledge what has happened and your sensitivity to their concerns: Organizations should be thinking through what does this mean to my people, my customers, my investors and my stakeholders. Admittedly there is little known right now as we are mostly in a wait and see mode to fully comprehend what this vote will mean. However, by stating what is known and what the organization is doing to understand the implications of the vote will help alleviate anxiety.
Provide timely updates: If there are additional actions and events that take place as the European Union and the United Kingdom address the separation, there are opportunities for you to keep this in front of your stakeholders with important and timely updates. As more information becomes known then updates can be provided at critical junctures. If there is little to say, just the continual communications say you are thinking about the issues and reassures your stakeholders that they are top of mind and you care about what this means to them.
Provide a way for stakeholders to raise questions: The proverbial question box has always be a useful tool. Providing a way for your stakeholders to raise questions and get answers back to them is vital. These FAQs questions will also prove useful as they support the continual communication channel.
Take the pulse: Get out there and talk with your people, find out what they are concerned about. If you have employees in the United Kingdom and Europe likely they have concerns about job security, company operations and customer requirements. Further, if you are a publicly traded company your shareholders likely have questions as well. Customers likely will have questions, especially those with operations in the European Union and the United Kingdom. Staying connected to important stakeholder groups is vital. And also demonstrates you care.
Be transparent: As with best in class communications, being transparent is necessary. Telling as much as you can as soon as you can is important. By leading your communications with empathy, acknowledging concerns and addressing them underscores important values that can help build trust and stabilize your workforce, your customers and your other stakeholders.
The Long Haul: It is unknown how long this separation will take and what actions will be taken along the way. There are no precedents. Two years appears to be the minimum amount of time it will take. No one knows. Organizations must understand they need to be committed to ongoing communications over this lengthy period of time and that their stakeholders can count on them. This will help organizations enhance their reputation and strengthen their brands. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Jacqueline Strayer is a faculty member at New York University in the Graduate Program in PR and Corporate Communication and teaches crisis communication among a number of courses at NYU. She has served as the CCO for three global publicly traded companies.