Some Communications Guidance for Weathering the Financial Crisis

As much as anything, what people are craving right now is some guidance on what to say to employees, customers, partners, the media and others about how the financial crisis is impacting their business. Unless you work on Wall Street, what's been going on is largely a mystery, and unless it has walloped you directly, it's a little hard to know what to say about it. Any help is appreciated.

This blog has already offered some guidance, but here's some more: an excellent new white paper from Waggener Edstrom called "The Communications Impact of Financial Turmoil."
It's a quick five-page read and I recommend you download it and read the whole thing. But here's the kicker at the end, titled "What we are recommending to our clients:"

  • Most importantly, stay focused on the long term. This crisis will pass; there will be fallout, but the globaleconomy will continue on. This is an opportune time to broaden interaction with stakeholders; to think globally; and to begin employing innovative communications tools such as social networking and online strategies, to support corporate business goals and strengthen those critical stakeholder ties.
  • This is not a good time to cut back on employee communications. In fact, constant and open dialogue between company leaders and employees is essential during times of uncertainty. Clearly all of this external communications needs to map as well to internal communications --both formal and informal. Senior management will want to understand this media dynamic and why story lines are being altered -- but broader employee communication will be of value in maintaining morale and helping the company as a whole understand how its story is being told in a media climate that is lunging from headline to headline. Now is the time for CEOs to be more visible than ever before, not less
  • Utilize every communications channel. Organizations need to move beyond (but not exclude) traditional media communications. This includes a heavy focus on direct stakeholder interaction (global citizenship, investor relations, employee communications, to name a few key elements). The use of online and social communications tools, from blogging to tweets, opens up new avenues for organizations to build communications bridges beyond mainstream press.
  • Be authentic. Not just today, but every day. Transparency and global citizenship are increasing in importance every day, and are key differentiators in the marketplace. Given the current degree of media scrutiny and public skepticism over the motives behind corporate behavior and performance, an organization's activities -- and to whom and how they are communicated -- must be ethical, authentic and credible. Indeed, we believe that authenticity will become the single biggest defining factor for successful corporations and those who lead them into the future.