“People in this country have had enough of experts,” said the Brexit campaigner Michael Gove a fortnight before the referendum.
Luckily for Mr. Gove nobody is an expert in what is happening as Britain – and the world – deals with the consequences of the UK voting to leave the European Union.
Since the result was announced in the early hours of Friday morning, the British political establishment has been in a tailspin and the global financial markets have been in meltdown as they assess what the economic, social and political impact of the vote will be.
As we wait for the dust to settle on the Brexit bombshell, businesses big and small across the globe are struggling to get to grips with a rapidly evolving environment.
Business leaders are having to ask difficult questions that they have never previously had to worry about – from whether they will be able to sell their products freely to the EU to if their staff will still be eligible to work in the UK.
Smart businesses will understand the value that public relations can play in helping businesses navigate the new landscape they operate in.
After the Conservative Party elect their new leader and he or she invokes Article 50, a major renegotiation process that will shape the future business environment in the UK. Businesses that want to protect their interests will need to use corporate communications to influence the negotiation and the negotiators.
For those looking to navigate this issue effectively, continue to protect their reputation and understand the business risks that Brexit poses, there are a few immediate actions to consider.
Map issues and plan for all outcomes
As former Manchester United captain Roy Keane used to say “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” With such fundamental and uncertain changes to UK legislation ahead, it is imperative that any prudent organisation understands the potential impacts of Brexit negotiations on their business and therefore how best to protect their business interests. Understanding all potential scenarios for the tumultuous years ahead will equip businesses with the tools necessary to influence the agenda as the government negotiates the Brexit settlement.
Have a clear, sustainable and human narrative that anchors your business trajectory
As we enter a new, uncertain reality, organizations need to flex and adapt how they communicate their overall business vision and corporate position to all stakeholders. Investing in a strategic narrative that clearly and robustly articulates how your business will navigate this new landscape, will ensure confidence across all audience groups. Central to this is an empathetic and human response that will add further equity to your corporate reputation. Business leaders should not just hide behind the political debate, they must present and human.
Engage employees and inspire
Undoubtedly, the referendum has exposed a divided country with a myriad of opinions and views across the spectrum. A business’ employees remain its greatest asset and bosses must be seen to be actively responding to their employees’ anxieties, questions and concerns at this challenging time. Getting this right will ultimately help boost morale and enable employees to become ambassadors for your future vision.
Continue to communicate
The rapidly evolving business environment means executives need to be prepared to go on-the-record to defend their corporate reputation at a moment’s notice. Senior business leaders need to not to be fearful of being caught off guard by the Brexit debate and confidently continue to drive their broader business narrative. It is critical for leaders to help reassure markets, employees (especially European workers) and shareholders, setting out their plans and intentions to mitigate the negatives and optimise the positives in the short and medium term whilst negotiations continue.
Despite all the rhetoric during the campaign, now we face the harsh light of reality. With such uncertainty ahead of us, Britain needs all of the expertise that corporates have to offer, to help navigate this Brexit bombshell.