What is your view about Brexit? What is the company’s position? How will the issue affect the business? What would you say if a journalist or customer asked you?
And on Trump’s travel ban? What is your company’s opinion?
It may be that neither of these major topics has a direct impact on your business. But, either way, there is an important issue at the heart of this; that, for the good of their PR, their reputation, businesses should define the organisation’s official position quickly after an issue arises and share it with all staff so that they can answer questions from customers, suppliers and possibly the press consistently and clearly. This will ensure that, to use a cliché, ‘everyone is singing from the same hymn-sheet,’ as they say.
Yes, it will seem obvious. But, in reality, many businesses do not do this. Quite often they don’t actually do it until the first email or call comes in from a client or editor, so they hurriedly scramble something together – and even then it may not be shared with all staff.
The principle of defining and sharing a company position statement not only applies to major external or world issues like these. It is often even more important if it is a local or market problem such as a production delay, sudden price increase in or shortage of raw materials, criticism on television or radio, certainly a product recall, an incident at an event or such crises.
What matters most is that, whatever the PR issue, the external communication is carefully considered, precisely worded then presented professionally and promptly by any responsible member of staff.
So how should this be done?
- The senior management and communications specialist immediately review the issue from all angles and the perspective of all audiences, from staff and neighbours to customers and suppliers before starting to draft a statement. While one consistent core position is ideal, there may need for special additions for specific groups and their particular needs. An external communications consultant can play an important role as an objective ‘devil’ advocate.’
- Once agreed, this should be shared with staff. On many issues this should with all staff. A written statement should be emailed and staff advised to keep it in an accessible place. Staff should also be briefed what they should do if asked these questions – when they should quote the statement and when they should not answer but refer it to a senior colleague. They should also be told not to be proactive in raising the issue, only reactive.
- Staff should be advised to stick exactly to the statement, not to paraphrase it, add personal thoughts or respond to any further questions.
In summary, a company’s position needs to carefully composed and coherent, consistently communicated by all staff, with clear definition as to who can speak to customers or the media.
Any issue is potentially a PR issue and a threat to an organisation’s reputation.
So is everyone in your organization ready to respond promptly to the Trump issue? Or the Brexit question?
At Clareville, as well as generating positive PR through editorial coverage proactively, over the last 25 years we have helped many organisations compose position statements on issues. If you would like to discuss how we can help please email [email protected]