may try to turn this moment of change to their
advantage? Are there policymakers in affected districts
that will campaign against job loss? Are there
employees, vendors and partners who need to
understand why you’ve decided on a different strategic
direction? These are questions that your traditional
legal and financial advisors may struggle to fully
grasp—but that a strategic communications partner
can help you prepare for and, in some cases, mitigate.
3 Build allies proactively. Once you know your core
stakeholders, you need to ensure that you have them
on your side—before you execute your strategy, not
after. You need communications operatives in the field
establishing trust and credibility, so that when you
decide to go public with your new initiative, you have
friends that you can call upon. If your local community
or elected representative first hears from you the
minute a crisis hits, it is already too late. Have a team
in place that knows the players, knows what they want
and understands how to effectively engage with them
throughout the course of the normal business cycle.
And I always counsel to start from the inside out—
never skip over your employees as they can be your
most important surrogates. And they’re a good litmus
test because if they aren’t buying your message, then
no one on the outside will either.
4 Avoid the bunker at all costs. This is something that
any communications professional worth his or her salt
will repeat over and over. “No comment” isn’t a
strategy—it is an admission of guilt, and it is often a
death sentence in moments of challenge, particularly
given the speed of communications as you’re
immediately ceding the framing of the issue to someone
else. This is where aligning communications advisors
with legal professionals becomes critical—again,
giving both an equal seat at the table. Know what you
can say and what you cannot say—but also know that
saying nothing is not an option.
5 Prepare for a competitive response.
Any moment of change—whether an
opportunity or a challenge—presents an
opening for your competitors. If you are
announcing a transaction, know that your
competitors are likely engaging their own
communications team to build a case
against it. You have to prepare for this—
being reactive in communications is
ceding the advantage to your competitors.
Communications are a strategic tool—
but can also be weapons wielded against
you. Scenario plan, understand your
vulner-abilities and address them—before
executing your strategy.
These rules are not a cure-all, but they are an effective
blueprint for success. And they all have one thing
in common—they require thoughtful consideration
prior to the execution of any transformative business
strategy. They require that your communications
team is in the room when the big decisions are being
made—not waiting outside for a set of talking points.
They require a seat at the table.
Ed Reilly is the Global CEO, Strategic Communications
for FTI Consulting.
“In our current age of
‘fake news,’ the worst
thing you can do when
devising a communications
strategy is to be untruthful
or even skate on the edge