ARE YOU BREXIT-READY?

5 months ago

Senior Associate Director James Ralph shares his thoughts on how businesses should be preparing for Brexit. 

This week’s Cabinet reshuffle points to the next 18 months emerging as a period of relative stability when it comes to business policy. With Brexit negotiations consuming political attention, there is little time or support for wider business reforms. Far from business paralysis though, I predict bold industrial moves, as firms find time to prioritise the important over the urgent. Spain and Belgium outperformed the eurozone in 2010 and 2016 when their business policies were frozen by caretaker governments.

This is no time for complacency in communications planning. Indeed looking to the Spanish experience, we may see greater demands placed on UK teams as firms focus on local rather than global strategies. Spanish banking group Santander put political paralysis at home to one side, to break its global strategy into “speedboat” and “supertanker” markets, transitioning established operations in Spain and the UK toward a digital banking model. Canny fintech acquisitions combined with smart communications planning saw it emerge as Euromoney’s SME bank of the year in 2016.

Bold shifts that stretch accepted audience outreach will become more common. Belgian mining and materials business Umicore redefined itself and its marketplace during the years of political uncertainty between 2007 and 2011.  Divesting itself of its last remaining mining operation in 2008, it doubled down on recycling and technology to become a leading force in clean mobility. Those working in sleepy industrial markets need to ready themselves to forge fresh audience relationships.

So what can we as B2B communicators do to prepare ourselves and our clients for what is to come. First off we need to shrug off the bunker mentality and stop trying to pretend everything will return to normal. If you are relying on phrases such as, “we will continue to monitor the negotiations carefully” then you need to make an honest assessment as to whether this is down to caution or ignorance. Have you really challenged for a clear view of the commercial strategy?

Collectively we must be stronger in our business narratives if we are to open up to make the most of new channels and audiences. It’s easy to use the phrase thought leadership, but true thought leadership isn’t only about the brightest ideas, it’s about the communicators that are able to bring them to life. Ever heard of “ebusiness” – that was coined by IBM in 1996. The “war for talent” – McKinsey in 1997. “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – The World Economic Forum in 2016.

As we seek to become Brexit ready, the chance to define the business agenda of tomorrow is firmly up for grabs, let’s seize it.