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Will your company’s reputation survive Brexit?

interviewingThis article was written by Tony Coll, Illumine’s expert on managing reputations by taking charge of messages and how they are presented to others.

The Context – Brexit

As I write these words, the UK is possibly hurtling towards leaving the EU on October 31st – yet it’s still not clear whether this will happen on that date, with or without a deal, or at all.

This leaves UK companies and their EU trading partners in an unenviable position. If they do nothing, they’ll be accused of behaving irresponsibly. So they have to plan. But their supply chains and markets are often incredibly complex. And if they take steps based on guesswork about a particular Brexit outcome, they could be disastrously wrong.

So what are they supposed to do? Their only option is to plan for a number of alternative scenarios along the lines of “if X, then Y”. But some of these scenarios may be very bad, in different ways, for the workforce, the customers and the shareholders.

This is a humdinger of a communication challenge.

When the media arrive…

The media will inevitably come calling. They will want to know what you plan to do now, and what you would do in the event of different Brexit outcomes. And you can’t get away from it by saying “no comment”. That always implies that you have something to hide. It also generates potentially damaging rumours. And in any case, it’s a question of legitimate public interest.

So when invited to give a media interview in difficult times, it’s generally in your interest to say yes. But there are rules.

  • Break your own bad news. If something negative is going to come out, it’s better that it comes from you than from a competitor. Then you can control the narrative, or at least put your interpretation on it.
  • Don’t deny the undeniable. Be truthful and use neutral language. Describe the situation as neither better nor worse than it is.
  • Be a commentator, not a victim. You have agency over the story you’re describing.
  • Use the PROVE model. Your argument should contain the following elements:

    Proposition – what we’re suggesting or have decided to do.Reason – why.Other View – the likely objection. but we’ve looked into it and found it’s not aviable option.Verify – here’s an example of where our suggestion has been used successfully before.End – a rounding-off statement for your idea such as a summary or call to action.
  • Sympathy – you’re a bunch of humans, not a heartless corporation. If people have been harmed or worried, express your concern.
  • Action – you are taking whatever steps are necessary to fix or optimise the situation.

As senior leaders you may also be asked to give talks, speeches or presentations or create company videos on the same topic. The rules are pretty much the same, except that you get to drive your own messages home. And there are some performance tips that differ in each medium.

A new workshop

In recognition of this unusual time, Illumine has created a special one-day training workshop called ‘Brexit and Your Reputation’. The session will cover the formulation and expression of policy as well as filmed role-play speeches, videos and media interviews. Ask about the workshop here.

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