Communication Tips for times of rapid change, by Control Risks
Nearly 130 years ago, the world’s most famous detective said in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
In the digital age, keeping up with data is about keeping up with fast-moving flows of information. Then it is a question for teams to analyse these information flows to decide what to say, to whom, why and how.
“Trust is the only legal performance-enhancing drug. Whenever there is more trust in a company, country or community, good things happen” – Dov Siedman
In the business world, and in real estate, people need to be at the centre of communication, whether employees, clients, members of the wider community or shareholders. And, especially during times of rapid change, a key reason to communicate is to build trust, as Dov Siedman, founder & chairman of the ethics & compliance company LRN and the How Institute for Society in the US, told The New York Times (above).
Some top tips on communication
Managing information flows and communication in the digital age is a skill and an art. MIPIMWorld Blog turned to some insights and advice from global risk consultancy Control Risks, aired during their webinar How to Handle Crisis Management – What Lies Ahead?, held jointly with critical event manager Everbridge.
The webinar panel included Jackie Day (head of crisis & security consulting, the Americas, Control Risks), Matt Hinton (partner, NYC, Control Risks), Ryan Marvel (partner, crisis & security consulting, Control Risks) and Imad Mouline (chief technology officer, Everbridge).
Key pointers from the Control Risks and Everbridge webinar were:
1. “Keep an eye on all the things that matter to you, even if they are moving around”, which they will do. (Mouline). Things that matter are:
- Things you care about – people, employees.
- Things you worry about – operations, assets.
- Your brand
2. Build different test-case scenarios – from best case to worst case, and even worse – with predefined figures to “allow you to quickly execute on decisions as the situation evolves daily” (Day).
3. What are the actions needed for business continuity? Keep track of who is doing what. Bring all this information into one place. This avoids having to constantly ask your teams “How are we doing?” or thinking about what you need to do now. (Mouline)
4. Define who you want to communicate with internally and externally, and become their ‘trusted source’. “Separate informational messaging from emergency messaging … Use alerts sparingly… Use three pieces of information in any emergency alert … What is the situation? How does it affect them? What do you want them to do? It is about expectations.” (Mouline)
5. There is no one size fits all response. “Each of the different phases [of managing information flows]carries with them different priorities, different challenges, and thus the need for real-time information to help make very nuanced decisions, as we think about [the situation]from a global perspective.” (Hinton)
6. Connect with peers, especially if your business is in different locations. Sharing insights, especially in real time, can be invaluable. “Learn from [peers]not only how to deal with what is right in front of you but what might be coming next, rather than having to deal with it right in the moment.” (Hinton)
7. This is the time to fully embrace your customer service and advisory roles. Do your teams have the necessary resources to handle the situation? “The temptation is there to provide global reports or generic, company-wide messaging, but what good looks like to us today is really leaning in and using this as an opportunity for real connection with internal stakeholders and to figure out how these teams can leverage existing tools to make their decisions easier.” (Marvel)
8. All communication must put people (employees, customers, vendors, all people) first. “If you start to put productivity and profit over people you will lose their trust and further exacerbate the impact on your organisation.” (Hinton) For example, what message will reassure employees and give them greater confidence that while everything is extremely painful and worrying, that this is in fact temporary and you will get back to some form of business as usual?
9. “A lot of people look to their leaders to be their source of truth, so it is important to have frequent communication … Balance is really important… Not all communications should be negative… You want to keep things occasionally light [example – trend for sharing pictures of working-from-home environments among team colleagues]… It’s OK if the communication is that things are in status quo, we are now in monitoring mode and that we are continuing to work through this.” (Hinton)
10. Start to think through conditions for returning to business as usual. Consider that it may be a new usual … Companies are going to need to be able to scale up when they have just spent so much time scaling down… Recovery is often seen as the forgotten son.” (Marvel)
11. Managing challenges is a test of leadership. “Now is the time for an informed, honest, and steady hand on the wheel: this is a leadership test. This is an opportunity to provide information and reassurance to your employees and make the tough decisions necessary to safeguard the financial health of your business.” (Day)
12. “Aligning your actions with your values will prove critical to success.” (Day)
Communication is all about preparation. Preparation takes time and resources. Flick back through time, and newspaper headlines are peppered with once bright names in business who have not taken heed of the importance of communication.
To move your business forward – to create long-term, sustainable growth – proper handling of information and communication flows is the only game to play.
This article is designed to highlight general best practice. It is always best to seek professional advice, as each and every situation and business is individual.
Top image via Getty Images/ProStock Studio