How should your organisation communicate with customers about Brexit? We’ve prepared this guide to Brexit Business Communications to help you plan your messaging effectively.
Business analysis of the Brexit agreement is concentrating on the potential economic impacts post-March. But what are the impacts on customers and consumers? How should businesses communicate these challenges to business stakeholders, customers and suppliers, if at all?
The key to successful business communications is to ensure timely information that is relevant and useful to your audience. So, whilst it might be tempting to share the details of your Brexit contingency planning with everyone on your database, that is not likely to be the most effective approach.
Brexit impact assessment
Now that the terms of the proposed exit agreement are known, your business may well have conducted an impact assessment to identify the main risks and issues arising, and their relative importance to your business.
Whilst the general themes may be similar across sectors each organisation will have a unique set of factors depending on how much you rely on, for instance, the free movement of goods and people across borders.
Once you are clear on any impacts that Brexit might have for your organisation, we can start to identify the communication needs for your stakeholders. This is the same process that you might follow for any business change process. We’ve previously shared tips and advice for a marketing contingency plan, which relates in this instance too.
Do you have a clear picture of all the stakeholder groups your business deals with? Which of those will potentially see an impact from Brexit, and do they need to be kept informed?
Upstream stakeholders include staff, suppliers, sources of funding, legal advisors, logistics and marketing agencies. Downstream stakeholders include logistics (again), customers, agents, and so on. Don’t forget that your staff are also important stakeholders in the business who will undoubtedly have questions or concerns that need to be addressed.
Creating a stakeholder map will ensure that you have identified all people, companies and agents relevant to your business and their importance to the smooth running of your operations and profitability. This guide from MindTools is useful in guiding you through the process. It used an adapted Mendelow’s matrix to categorise based on power and interest.
Identifying customer impact from Brexit
The next step is to bring together the outputs of your impact assessment and the stakeholder map.
Of the risks and issues identified, how many have a potential impact on your key stakeholders? Are there any mitigating plans that can be documented, or put in place now to minimise the impact on them? For instance, if there is a risk that customer orders will be delayed due to increased customs checks this will have a direct impact on your customers, and therefore should be included in your comms plan. If you have confidence that your contingency plans will negate this issue, then customers don’t necessarily need to know the details.
Identify the primary issues for each stakeholder group and weight them according to the likelihood of it happening, and the severity of the impact.
Brand messaging for Brexit
As well as specific messaging for each stakeholder group the values, mission and vision of your brand need to be borne in mind. Your brand personality and tone of voice will also inform the method of communication.
Likely brand-level messaging for Brexit business communications will be:
- Reassurance – that risk assessments have been undertaken and contingency plans are in place
- Trust – that your organisation is considering any customer impacts of Brexit and communicate honestly with stakeholders
- Stability – that your business is prepared to ensure continuity of service throughout the period of Brexit negotiations and implementation
As the brand foundation to your Brexit business communications these sentiments must be consistent across all messaging with stakeholder groups.
Creating a Brexit comms plan for stakeholders
Once all impacts on stakeholders are identified a Brexit business communications plan can be developed to ensure that the right people receive the right message at the right time.
Bear in mind that your stakeholders may receive information from a wide range of other sources, so over-communication is as damaging as under-communication in this case. You don’t want your carefully crafted message to be lost amongst the noise.
Depending on your relationship with each stakeholder group and their preferred communication method you can employ a range of channels to inform them of potential changes to your business post-Brexit. Email enables efficiency of communication but business briefings and events provide the opportunity to discuss and reassure, so select channels wisely. A combination of communication tools is likely to provide the optimum result.
Focus on delivering information that provides the direct impact for each stakeholder group. Ask yourself what the benefit or risk is for the recipient and frame the messaging accordingly.
Brexit Business Communications – summary
As with all aspects of business the best communications approach is to ‘be prepared’. With effective business communications planning your organisation can be ready to inform, reassure and manage the expectations of your stakeholder groups throughout the Brexit negotiation process. For help with this task please get in touch.
Also published on Medium.