Deal or No Deal? In or Out? The answers to these questions will shape so much for so many for years to come. Now more than ever it feels like none of us can predict the future. But rightly so, people are looking to their employers for clarity, direction and ultimately reassurance that the right contingency plans are in place to ensure they will still have a job no matter the outcome.
Providing clarity and direction will not only be greatly appreciated, it will also help build trust in leadership and sustain business performance. From a comms perspective you need to plan for the different scenarios so that you’re ready to act when the time is right. No pressure!
During uncertainty or change people seek out any scraps of information they can, that will either confirm or deny their personal beliefs or fears. Good or bad, people want to know, be prepared and not feel like the wool is being pulled over their eyes. Communicators know things are going horribly wrong when the news is their people’s main information source. Sensationalism can destroy morale and trust.
Banksy knows it better than most… a picture can paint a thousand words
During the financial crisis a lot of our clients turned to us for help. They were going through unprecedented and chaotic times and needed to communicate their big picture messages clearly, effectively and with impact. How were they planning to deal with the crisis? How were they going to turn their businesses around? How was the Government bail-out going to impact their future?
We turned to visual thinking. We created big picture strategy maps for four of the big high street banks – helping them communicate their plans with their employees, stakeholders and the outside world. By putting everything on one page and literally drawing things out, you’re more likely to bring people on your journey and successfully get everyone on that same page.
Reality, perception and fiction – own your story
A lack of communication increases speculation and uncertainty, leading to a sense of powerlessness to change anything, compounded with a cynical lack of trust in leadership. This is not a recipe for success.
44% of employees do not feel senior leaders are providing clear direction about where their organisation is headed
Source: IBM and Globoforce (2017)
As with the credit crunch, it’s crucially important to own your story. Brexit is creating a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s the role of leaders to instil confidence and provide clear direction, closely supported by communications teams. Explain your contingencies, at the very least let your people know that you are scenario planning. And if you can, map it all out.
How to step up your comms game
Here are a few pointers to get your people onside during these ever-changing times:
- People look to their leaders to lead – don’t go into hiding!
- Listen to your people – once you’ve heard what they want to know, you can give them information that resonates with them.
- Get your facts straight – stick to the facts, don’t speculate, if you don’t know be honest and say that.
- Control the message – create one version of the truth. A core narrative can provide the golden thread helping to present a consistent and considered approach across all communications. Also, timeliness of your messaging is key.
- Leadership engagement – ensure leadership are on the same page. Give them the tools to aid communication to provide a consistent voice across your organisation.
- Champion clarity over volume – don’t create more noise. Just because you’ve pushed messages across multiple channels, don’t assume they’ve reached your audience.
- Scenario planning – be prepared, with a clear cascade plan.
- Reassurance – there’s a reason why you are in business and it’s important to remember what made you great. Even in hard times look for the positives that can be actioned.
- Visualise your big picture story – join the dots for people, the why is equally as important as the what and how. If you don’t provide the why your people will come up with their own answers.
- Face-to-face – keep things human, digital can lack the personal touch and authenticity a leader or manager can deliver through dialogue.
- Provide regular updates – no matter how good your internal comms channels are people always look to their managers, ensure they have clear direction about their role in communication coupled with the right communication tools.
- Keep it simple – clarity is a supercharger to results, if a communication is impenetrable people will give up.
If you would like to find out more about the power of visual thinking, or if you’d like to talk your Brexit communication scenario planning through, we’d love to hear from you.