Disrupting disruption: Taking control in an increasingly polarised politcal world
By Jeremy Galbraith, Managing Partner & William Hummel, Director at BOLDT
Disruption. It is happening each and every single day. While disruption is perhaps an overused word, now, more than ever businesses must navigate an increasingly complex world. It is precisely because of this ever-growing threat that companies must understand what the disruptors are and how they can take back control.
Top Disruptors of 2020
- Business disrupting business: Think about it. Netflix. Airbnb. Uber. Venmo. Casper. All of these companies are disrupting established industries through advancements, ingenuity and innovation.
- NGOs: NGOs have been disrupting for years using strong images and live actions to shock the general public and pressure corporations and governments to change.
- Unions: Since the beginning of the 20th century, unions have been using disrupting tactics to meet their demands towards industry, governments and private organisations. The 2019 December strikes from the transport and public sectors in France only confirm that those techniques are not getting old.
- Social Media: The pace of disruption through social media is only increasing. A small missteps on social media can become global news within hours, undoing decades of work to create strong reputations.
- Political movements: Industry is also not spared disruption from both politicians from all spectrums and political movements.
- Activist shareholders: At the end of Q3 2019, 712 companies worldwide, including 117 in Europe, were publicly subjected to activist demands. Activism is here to stay.
How do you take back control?
The right mind set
Companies need to understand that they are not always right. Communicators and public affairs professionals must not be afraid to ask direct and difficult questions of leadership. If you accept a business decision or strategy that is not wise or feasible, everyone is bound for failure.
So how do you take back control of the discussion? Disrupts the disruptors: take risks!
First don’t ignore, engage: Ignoring problems does not make them go away. Thinking a crisis will pass hardly ever works and can seriously damage a reputation. But, do not overreact: getting a video or post taken down usually only adds to its viral potential.
Show that you are in control and take back the discussion. In the digital era, unidirectional communication is dead. A 2018 study found that 49% of journalists do not read press releases at all, with just 3% of journalists worldwide reporting they rely on press releases from a newswire. Communications is no longer a one-way street. Journalists, stakeholders and consumers expect a dialogue and want to be engaged. And be prepared and open to the discussion because that means they will answer back!
Creating deep, emotional connections is the best way to engage your stakeholders. Don’t leave the use of emotion to your opponents. But, remember – while emotion and inspiration is good, when you cannot inspire, inform.
Think long run. It is all about relationships. When the pressure comes it’s too late to build a relationship. Additionally, your employees are your greatest asset and your ‘front line’, so use them. If they can’t tell your story, no-one will. Invest in them to ensure your employees represent the company’s interests through advancing corporate priorities by building strong regional and localised relationships. These relationships will pay dividends when you face major issues as the basis of the relationships is trust.
Finally: show, do not tell. One of the keys to rebuilding trust is to lead by example and ‘walk the talk’. Theoretical oratory will leave audiences unsure of your meaning: they need the real and specific to remember the importance of what you say. It is essential to ensure your stakeholders understand how and why what you are doing will impact their own lives. It is also about living your purpose in all communications. Don’t let each turn of events define your purpose; it should be the other way around. Now, more than ever, people are distrustful of companies and their motivations. To help combat this, it is important to be authentic in what you say and always answer the question. Tell YOUR STORY
Disruption is going nowhere: Embrace it