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Big questions for business communicators from 2016’s political shifts

This year’s election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, and the similarly seismic decision of Britain to leave the European Union, are mainly being assessed in terms of their political implications.

But, looking at these changes from a business communication perspective, four questions jump out:

  • Will there be enforced shifts in terms of key agenda items, like sustainability and diversity?

Diversity and sustainability initiatives often have prominent places in internal and external communication, and in the case of diversity, organizations often seek to highlight leaders and heroes of diverse backgrounds to reinforce their diversity commitment.  But the arrival (in the US case at least) of an unenthusiastic administration could signal a need to tone things down, or perhaps the mandating of an alternative approach?

  • Will organizations stick to their stated values, or try to play it safe?

“Honesty,” “Transparency,” and “Participation” are some of the more inclusive values that organizations around the world have adopted of late. But to what extent will organizations be willing to promote and defend these values – and those who practice them – in an aggressive and hostile political environment?

  • How will organizations handle tensions between favored and unfavored groups?

Even if organizations maintain their diversity commitments as best they can, how will they need to proceed if there are tensions between groups of employees, say at a production facility or even at HQ?  What are the potential short term and long term opportunities for reputational risk and operational dysfunction in such situations?

  • Will we have the same access to tools to connect with our peers and communities, and get our side of the story out?

Very little in the post-US election press that I have seen has mentioned the possibility of online censorship, but the possibility of overturning net neutrality and  perhaps even attempts to copy China’s success at blocking Facebook indicate that tightened internet access ocould be possible in some places in 2017.

It’s true that not much is being said about these possibilities now.

But given the tone of what we are hearing from Washington and other affected capitals, these are questions which business communicators need to look at – even if they don’t live in a country that is currently experiencing upheaval. Global standards might be adjusted, and tools, messages and approaches that were once taken for granted may well go up for grabs.

Communicators will be in a unique position to notice – and question – any changes that emerge.

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The subject of “Creating and Communicating the World in 2017” – preparing for the coming year and drawing a line under 2016 – will be on the agenda in Brussels on 3 December at a one-day conference hosted by Changing The Terms, sponsored by IABC EMENA and co-hosted by Femflection: to register: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/creating-and-communicating-the-world-in-2017-an-open-space-conference-tickets-28470935334