Why will it help to talk about Brexit?
As my colleague explained last week, Brexit is nearly upon us. Its final form is far from clear – subject as it is to the whims of wavering politicians and populist opinion – but it’s almost certainly going to happen. Most companies have diligently pored over the likely business impacts of the UK leaving the EU, whether it’s a Brexit that basically maintains the status quo or the no-deal mayhem of the most Brexity type of Brexit.
If you haven’t analysed the likely impact on your business, that’s where you need to start. How will it affect your customers and your other critical stakeholders, including employees, investors, and suppliers? What steps can you take to minimise potential adverse impacts, and where can you seize on the opportunities afforded by Brexit?
The divisive nature of Brexit – in whatever form it eventually takes – has encouraged a reticence from most companies. While the majority have a pretty good idea of how Brexit will impact their business, no one wants to take ownership of such a political hot potato. How do you talk positively about the UK’s imminent potential departure from the world’s biggest trading block? What role does economics even play in the overall Brexit debate?
While there’s been a tendency to stand back and watch what other people do, it’s time for companies to take the reins. There are two levels on which talking about Brexit could benefit your company.
Can you lead the Brexit narrative and help set the agenda for your industry? No one is in a better position to guide the government on industry policy than the companies working within that industry.
What with blue passports, political infighting and a constitutional wrangle about the definition of parliamentary sovereignty, the government’s plate is pretty full. Industry-leading companies can no longer afford to watch from the side lines if they want drive negotiations and policies in a direction that suits their industry.
The opportunities to influence policy already exist; beyond taking a powerful, clear, well-expressed stance in the media, companies can advise policy makers through consultation processes, and direct contact with the relevant ministers and civil servants.
If you can help even the keel at such turbulent times, your guidance will not only help your industry, it will cement your position as an industry thought leader in the eyes of your stakeholders.
This aspect of Brexit communication is much more specific to your company and its unique make-up of stakeholders. Having done the requisite Brexit analysis, companies should create a messaging framework that takes all stakeholder groups into consideration, both internal and external. Often overlooked, internal communication is essential. Employees need to know the companies stance to present a united front to external stakeholders.
So, ask yourself. Does our Brexit messaging address the individual concerns of each stakeholder group? Are we communicating those messages effectively to each group? Can we make better use of the channels available to us? Do we need to start using some new ones? Should our messaging differ between our UK-based and EU-based stakeholders?
It’s not a matter of predicting exactly what’s going to happen – that’s a fool’s errand right now. It’s about using all the tools at your disposal to demonstrate you understand all possible outcomes, and that you have a plan to minimise potential negative impacts while seizing opportunities where they present themselves.
If you’re interested in putting together a Brexit communications strategy, do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org