• Tracey Gordon

Telling your company's story during complex and uncertain times

It’s a C-suite dilemma and it raises one of most important questions of our time. How do you manage a business and make decisions about the future, when so little about the world is predictable right now?

There have been times of uncertainty before, but most experts agree that we are in a period where very little is certain, it’s happening all at once, at very high speed -- and none of it is under our control.

The question companies have to ask: is it just the new normal, where a confluence of complexity becomes the state-of-now or will certainty and the ability to plan long-term return?

That has consequences. When there’s a lot of external noise, does any company’s story really get heard? Depends on the company of course, but it’s a question being asked a lot by management these days.

With so much happening at once, what does the company talk about, what does it avoid? Does it respond to a tweet, how does it react to new tariffs affecting its global production, what does it say to employees, to customers, to analysts?

What’s in its comfort zone, what is third rail?

Corporations spend small fortunes telling their stories – through advertising, marketing, public relations – but what do they do when the world in which they operate has turned upside down, and any degree of telling the company story is lost as much bigger issues are debated?

Much of that task comes down to the people running those three departments, but this is an essential time for the CEO’s involvement. CEO engagement drives the critical decision around participation.

It’s the CEO who asks the question: how does my company talk about the very complex shifts underway in society, the economy, without having them overshadow the carefully crafted image we’ve worked so hard to build?

It’s so easy to say nothing and for many companies being passive is an option. If you’re in an industry that has gone through challenging times before – and few haven’t – being passive and not engaging in big discussions seems to be a safe option.

But, is it really?

What if today’s new normal is here to stay and all that noise and unpredictability is our new permanent.

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