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By: Ashley Campbell

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Jul 24, 2018 | Linhart Blog, Uncategorized

Three Steps for Leading Communications Efforts in Contentious Environments

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At Linhart PR, we’re lucky to have an interesting cross-section of clients, spanning manufacturing to multi-unit restaurants to health care. All deliver important products and services; all come with their own unique opportunities and challenges. It’s our job to maximize communications opportunities and support reaching their business objectives.

In recent years, we’ve partnered with companies that deliver critical products and services that drive the Colorado economy and (quite literally) our day-to-day lives – I’m talking about our clients in the oil and gas production and electric utility space. These companies operate in highly-regulated environments and are subject to heightened (sometimes warranted, other times ill-informed) scrutiny. We help our clients tell their story, highlighting efforts to operate safely and with respect for customers, local communities and the environment.

The unfortunate truth is that many companies in their industries frequently find themselves in a defensive posture, working against a narrative asserted by opponents. This is where we come in. Here are three important steps we recommend to ensure you’re ready to maximize opportunities and minimize issues, especially in complex business environments or situations:

  • Prepare your defensive game plan, but don’t forget about the offense. It’s nearly football season, so it seems appropriate to work in a reference to playing both sides of the ball. Pressure from the outside frequently yields an abundance of caution when it comes to external communication efforts – and sometimes, that’s okay. But don’t miss opportunities to, for example, share fact-based background or highlight employee efforts in the community. Establish a steady drumbeat of communications activity to fortify reputation.
  • Create a master communications calendar of milestones, observances and events. Well-rounded communications success lies in managing a calendar to identify potential risks and proactive opportunities to tell your story. Consider creating an internally-shareable calendar that crosses stakeholders and channels, and provide any updates on a monthly or quarterly basis. This will help anticipate and mobilize ongoing preparation and execution of communications efforts.
  • Ensure all employees have the tools to engage with stakeholders. Spokespersons are given the messaging and tools needed to interact with media, but are all your employees prepared to have a fact-based, level-headed conversation about (for example) a ballot initiative with significant impact to your business? They should be. Employees are your best brand ambassadors in the communities where you do business and serve customers. Look for opportunities to engage and share conversational message points that lead to positive interactions. Offer the needed tools to identify when to communicate and when to refrain. For many companies, daily business is conducted within a network of friends and foes – preparation and practice are key to successful engagement.

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