Sunday, March 08, 2009

Communicating in "The Great Disruption"

This morning, Thomas Friedman wrote a very interesting column about "The Great Disruption.". One of the key points he makes is:

"So am I [an optimist]. People are already using this economic slowdown to retool and reorient economies."

I am an optimist too. This great disruption is a chance for all of us to rethink the way we do things and refine them to meet today's realities. And, while Friedman is thinking about macroeconomic issues, I think about how all of this impacts the way we communicate. Having written here and elsewhere about the great opportunity that is presented to some special companies that can come out way ahead in this economy, I want to spend a few minutes thinking about the other, good companies that will definitely continue to progress in this economy, whether or not they leap bounds ahead.

So, let me paint the scene: imagine you are a company that is managing to build its new products and slowly but surely is increasing its revenues, in spite of the state of the market. You have reason to believe that a measured, systematic approach to business will keep you on the path of progress.

So, what should YOUR communications plan be in this environment? You don't really fit either of the two models that have been widely discussed: either go all in; or just shut down all communications to save all of your resources.

Thee is a third plan. It's probably the one that is suited to most companies that are continuing to move ahead in this market:

Communicate clearly and steadily. Perhaps less than you have been used to doing in the past (but definitely more than no communications at all).

In a general sense, such a plan could look as follows:

-Spend a month to six weeks really clarifying your goals and messages and what you want to accomplish;
-Periodically (every four to six weeks) make sure you are proactively communicating with the market (through news, blogs, web site updates, and other means). If you can do a little more, fine. But don't make it a crisis.
-Use Twitter and other social media, as appropriate;
-Be responsive to opportunities that present themselves. By this, I mean, for example, two types of situations: one in which something is going on in the market to which you can respond; and the other situation is when something happens (positive or negative) to your company which presents the chance to use communications outreach to further your fortunes.

It's clear that this is a generic formula and that every company faces a different day to day environment. The real point of the great disruption is that we are all being invited and forced to rethink many of our ways of succeeding in the world. As they say, since necessity is the mother of invention; therefore it is clear that the right communications plan for each company needs to be developed in real time by the team that is thinking about how to optimize each moment.


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