Job loss continues around the globe. Companies are reorganizing, letting employees go, and merging. Others are closing doors. Media reports continue to feature discussions of recession and speculation that economic recovery will take time. Chances are, at best, your clients are experiencing a tightening of the belts. At worst, they are letting people go and reallocating resources to grow sales. It’s a tough time for bottom lines, and it’s a crucially important time for communications professionals. How do you play the most valuable role advising your corporate clients? Here are some tips.
Recommend that they prioritize and address internal communications first. Companies need to be open and transparent. If change is coming, develop and implement a robust and proactive plan. Engage the organization’s leadership, and be clear about WHY change is necessary and WHAT the change entails. We all worry about leaks and losing control of a 24/7 news environment, and some experts will tell you the best way to maintain control is to share your news externally first. This approach is likely to affect employee morale. It’s also disrespectful, and sends a message to your employees that PR is more important than people. So stage your communications in a respectful order beginning with your leadership, then your teams. Your leadership needs to own the message and be part of delivery.
If your company is staying the course, find an opportunity to let your people know that you appreciate them, and that your business is full steam ahead. Reinforce the vision, mission and plan, and tell people that they are valued and appreciated. Across many companies, people are feeling unstable, uncertain, and uneasy. They are worried about their jobs. If they haven’t experienced layoffs personally, they have seen and heard enough in the news about other organizations to be alert and concerned. Rumor mills are rampant and can distract employees from their day-to-day responsibilities. Calm the waters. Tell people they have nothing to worry about. But only do so if you are 100% certain that no change is on the horizon. Actions and words have to match in order to gain trust.
When you are ready to make a public announcement change at your company, prioritize your messages. Be transparent, direct, and brief. Express remorse over change and how it may be affecting your people or shareholders. Have no more than two-to-three messages to communicate your news. This approach will help you cut through and get your points across. And, of course, if you are advising a publicly-held company, follow all regulatory requirements for releasing your news.
Change is inevitable in any company. In times like these, talented communications professionals have a unique opportunity to show their value.