It’s one of the biggest communications challenges of our time…
And it’s potentially trickier now than ever before…
I’m talking about deciding what to say on behalf of your organisation about its future – in current times of massive uncertainty.
The ongoing acceleration of change – mixed with current unpredictabilities – has taken the challenge of communicating about your organisation’s plans to new levels of difficulty.
If you doubt this, try asking yourself:
Is what you might to say about your future intentions able to stand the test of time however things pan out with Britain’s chaotic, seemingly never-ending departure from the European Union – exacerbated by the chaotic, seemingly never-ending departure of members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government?
Or is what you say about the future of your organisation’s business development going to have to be adjusted because of the next outrageous thing uttered, dreamed up or tweeted by US President Donald Trump?
Is what you might say about any future dealings with the Asia-Pacific region going to have to change depending on who might suddenly become the next Prime Minister of Australia – at a time when who is in charge in my one-time home of Canberra switches at bewildering rates?
(If you’re having trouble keeping up, Scott Morrison has been Australian Prime Minister for just over three months now – a very long time in contemporary Canberra politics!)
Amidst such an ever-changing whirl, how you portray your vision for the future of your organisation, your team or yourself is harder than it might have been in more stable times.
So it’s vital to get the content of your communications right – and look, sound and feel right as you do so.
How you answer tough questions about future plans amidst today’s the uncertainties is also more challenging than it used to be.
Before giving you some guidance, let’s see how bad it can look when someone gets their communications completely wrong in a rapidly moving world…
GETTING IT COMPLETELY WRONG
If you’ve been studying the highly unstable current British political scene, you might think there’s nothing harder than answering questions that relate to Brexit.
But Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, from the Home Office, has shown that answering questions about troubled immigrant mothers living with their young children in rat-infested accommodation can be made even more difficult.
The parliamentary chair of Westminster’s Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, wanted to know where exactly was this accommodation which had reportedly housed seven immigrant mothers and their children amidst the rodents.
In the circumstances it was a fairly obvious question, but Caroline Nokes made the mistake of not being ready for it.
You can check out the first part of the drama here – and watch closely for the not-so-impressive admission from Ms Nokes that “Telepathy is not my first skill.”
And with Caroline Nokes being unable to answer questions about where the rat-infested accommodation was located, Yvette Cooper took the initiative to find out behind-the-scenes for herself.
This is what happened a short time later in the second part of the drama as Ms Cooper questioned the hapless minister about why she and her officials didn’t come up with the not-so-mysterious information themselves.
Watch for the reaction from Ms Stokes when told that she didn’t need telepathy – and that all she needed was a telephone!
One of the key things when answering questions in a fast-moving situation, is to be very clear on the underlying message you are sending.
Remember this message is not just governed by what you say, but also by how you sound and look as you say it.
Ask yourself, what message is Caroline Nokes really sending when she says in regard to the information uncovered by Yvette Cooper: “I will be very pleased to receive it.”
Is Ms Nokes looking and sounding pleased to you?
Is she looking and sounding like a minister in charge of her officials and on top of things?
Is she making herself a prime candidate to be leaving Mrs May’s government against her will?
YOUR GUIDANCE ON COMMUNICATING AMIDST UNCERTAINTY
Whether the uncertain environment in which we have to communicate is clouded by rats, Brexit, Donald Trump or something else, here’s some guidance:
- The more fast-moving the situation, the more important it is to get your facts and think things through before entering the lion’s den of a question session. Whether you’re communicating to TV cameras or customers or potential clients or your own team, you need to plan the wording of your pronouncements so carefully in advance that you won’t be caught out by changing circumstances. The same applies to your proposed answers to questions on the topic – something we always focus on in “Give Great Answers To Tough Questions” master class sessions, and then thoroughly test you out on so you are as close to bombproof as possible.
- Be truthful, and where you don’t know something important, spell out with a credible reason WHY you don’t know it. When your audience members hear a convincing reason they’ll be much more sympathetic to what you say next.
- Make sure you do add something next. An “I don’t know because of X” can be a safe start amidst questioning by people worried about the future in a choppy situation. But if your response is left dangling there, it’s far from reassuring.
- You need to fill the vacuum with as much precision as you can during shifting circumstances. You can add things such as what you can authoritatively say on the topic raised, reveal when you expect to be able to say more and what you are doing to find out more detailed information on the exact question about which you’re being asked.
- Craft a powerful message you need to get across in challenging times. For example, if asked about how successful your organisation will be in five years’ time amidst the uncertainties, you might prepare a message about how confident you are about the future, why you have that degree of confidence, and spell out what is being done to maximise the chances of your organisation achieving that glorious future you are predicting for 2023. Make sure you include any important caveats with your predictions such as “IF market growth continues at the current pace, then predicted sales figures should be reached” etc. so your credibility is safeguarded if the underlying market conditions change.
- Reinforce your message with one or more illustrations to underline its credibility. Give specific figures to support your message and/or give an example to back-up your point in a way that paints a vivid picture in the minds of your audience.
TAKING YOURSELF AND YOUR TEAM TO HIGHER PERFORMANCE LEVELS
A high level of change and uncertainty is a fact of modern life and amidst Brexit and Donald Trump’s erratic performances it’s something which increases the need to communicate effectively and carefully.
Whether you need to spell out your plans and forecasts for 2019 or answer questions about your organisation’s long-term future, it’s vital to plan, prepare and practise for the situation.
If you’re struggling with it, or you want to stretch to an even higher level in your communications, help is potentially available – one-to-one, in master classes with small groups and/or in a keynote speech at your conference.
There’s more on one-to-one help on becoming an inspirational business communicator here:
There are details about communications-boosting programmes for your team at:
Here’s where you can check out the options for booking a communications-enhancing keynote speech at your event:
And if you’d like information about rare open sessions in “Give Great Answers To Tough Questions” and “Your Message In 60 Seconds” on Wednesday 20 February 2019 in Central London, you can request the details by emailing:
I am bravely predicting that the pathway to the final Brexit outcome will still be full of twists and turns in the near future and beyond.
I am confidently forecasting that, barring unforeseen political developments, Donald Trump will remain verbally disruptive throughout the whole of 2019.
But I am also predicting, amidst all the uncertainty, that you and your team will shine out to those around you next year and beyond if you train for it, plan for it, prepare for it and practise for it.
If you do this properly you can get your messages across despite the twists and turns of Brexit, despite any mindless outbursts by Donald Trump and despite any infestations of rats!