Communicating in a Post-Brexit World

July 7, 2016

The UK’s extraordinary decision to leave the European Union has given rise to a period of substantially increased uncertainty in financial markets, geo-politics, investment, talent and perhaps even personal identity – as so many of us wonder what sort of place the UK and Europe is set to become.

The key dynamics behind the UK’s historic vote are explored in detail by our Chief Executive Officer, Rob Flaherty. Looking towards the future, perhaps the only thing we can truly be certain of, in this post-Brexit world, is further considerable uncertainty for some time to come.

The specific Brexit-related challenges facing different organizations will depend largely on the extent of their operations in the UK. However, to help you adapt to the new normal following an event of the Brexit’s magnitude, we wanted to share some key principles and practices that we can all rely on in any period of increased uncertainty.

1. Talk more:
At times of increased uncertainty, people look to their place of work more than anywhere else for information and reassurance. Provide a clear a point of view, establish a dialogue and ensure your key ambassadors across the organisation are armed with what they need to communicate effectively.

2. Listen and be open to new ideas:
When the world is unclear, simply talking openly can be cathartic. Understand the pressures your people feel by listening to their worries and setting up mechanisms so your workforce can discuss their concerns. Every team will have ideas on how your organization can thrive in uncertain conditions, so be open to how the best ideas can come from anywhere – and show it.

3. Focus on employees’ health and well-being:
The impact of uncertainty and fear on employee’s well-being – including mental health – should not be under-estimated. Ensure you have the correct forms of support on offer and that they are well understood.

4. Remember that corporate positions are hard to undo:
Whenever the future is unclear, very careful thought needs to be given to any public statements on your long-term plans that could become hostages to fortune. Do your best to reassure and don’t promise what you can’t guarantee. Instead set out how you will make the right decisions and avoid feeding the media with incomplete speculation.

5. Only join the public debate when it’s authentic to do so:
Reflect on whether there is a specific business and brand rationale for joining public debates. Then reflect on your tonality across advertising, marketing and PR (click to tweet). No-one appreciates misjudged or opportunistic comments during bruising times, particularly when the dividing line between humor and offense is paper-thin.

6. Reach out to communities and policy-makers:
Consider how the support you are offering your own teams might extend to your local communities and supply chain. They will also be grappling with the practical implications of uncertainty. At the same time, connect more than ever with those who create the policies, legislation and regulation that most impacts on your business, at a time when they too are looking for insights and ideas to manage uncertainty.

To help leaders navigate constant and at times acute change, we’ve spent the last five years exploring effective leadership, effective communication and the intrinsic link between the two. Our 5th annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor finds that even amid the current flux, there are unprecedented opportunities to lead the way on key social and economic issues, if leaders across business, politics and civic society are open to aligning what they say with what they do.

In this new post-Brexit normal of increased uncertainty and everyday turbulence, effective communication aligned with decisive action is needed more than ever. These reliable principles will make all our jobs that little bit easier as we seek to help map out the path back to stability.

Rod Cartwright is partner and director of Ketchum’s global corporate practice, drawing together in one community specialists in corporate media relations, public affairs, financial communications, issues & crisis, CSR & sustainability and energy.