The Trump Administration’s on-going political drama makes it easy to forget that not long ago, companies were the almost-daily subjects of Trump Twitter tirades. But corporate executives who assume they and their organizations are now off the hook should consider Trump’s mastery at creating distractions – and take this breather to plan for the real possibility that they could soon be back in the president’s Twitter crosshairs.
Our consultancy works with organizations ranging from Fortune 300 companies to Silicon Valley start-ups. Almost every one of them—from pharmaceutical to manufacturing companies—has solicited our counsel on what to do if their organization is threatened by a Trump tweet or policy.
No matter what flies from Trump’s twitter feed or his presidential administration, organizational leaders need for their employees, investors, customers, suppliers and communities to look to the organization as the trusted source of information on its philosophy, positions and plans. How successful your company is amidst the chaos of the Trump presidency may largely depend on how well and how regularly you connect with these important constituencies.
How can you do that? Here are three high-level tips:
- Regular engagement with your stakeholders is more important than publicly responding to a Trump tweet. Regardless of whether you directly reply to something said or done by the Trump administration, your stakeholders need to hear from you first—and regularly. If you haven’t already done so, consider an opening communication that acknowledges the unpredictable nature of Trump’s presidency, but also underscores your organization’s overall optimism about your company and the country. You should also outline how you will interact with Trump if provoked. (If you’re never going to respond to criticisms of your company on Twitter, tell your stakeholders that, so they won’t be alarmed by your lack of a reply.) But make it clear that your priority is to communicate regularly with your customers, employees, investors and suppliers about the company’s agenda and how you’ll approach challenges that stem from the Trump presidency. Then make sure those communications happen.
- The mechanics of your communications will vary by organization. Selecting your communication mediums and formats will depend on your organization’s culture, its size and how you already share information. It could be via more regular interactions with investors, regularly scheduled employee updates in face-to-face meetings, emails or Intranet posts, and/or more frequent communications with customers.
- A systematic approach will require a communications apparatus and schedule. It also will demand time, discipline, and forethought because success could ride on thinking two or three steps ahead of what the Trump administration will say or do next. Given Trump’s unpredictability and mendacity, that’s easier said than done, but brainstorming scenarios that could face your industry or company and chart how you’d respond is a good start.
This extra effort will be repaid by alleviating organizational anxiety and keeping the melodrama emanating from the White House in perspective. Your company’s position will be more secure because the people and organizations your business depend upon will know that meaningful information about your intentions will consistently come from the mothership. Which is as it should be because all the sensationalism, controversy and national handwringing aside, you lead your organization and set its policy – not Donald Trump.
Stephanie Nora White is managing partner of WPNT Ltd. With offices in Chicago and San Francisco, the national firm has provided communications training and strategy to organizations worldwide ranging from Fortune 300 companies to Silicon Valley start-ups for more than 20 years. Follow WPNT Ltd. on Twitter at @wpntltd.