Whether you are explaining your corporate response to globalization or defending it, your ability to effectively communicate your position is paramount. Why? Your ability to do so can help achieve greater understanding, acceptance and support. Your failure to do so, however, can result in bad press, policymakers running for cover, low employee morale and decreased investor confidence.

Reversing False Perceptions

There is no doubt: the benefits of trade and globalization are widely dispersed, while the much smaller losses are highly concentrated. As a result, many believe trade and globalization primarily are responsible for America’s economic difficulties. In turn, this has led to the belief that erecting trade barriers will solve a variety of problems. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To reverse these perceptions, American businesses must take the lead in educating the public, media and policymakers, and of course, their employees and investors on today’s global economic realities. And very importantly, they must communicate the impact of these realities on their companies and explain what they intend to do about them.

Framing Issues

To truly achieve understanding, it is important to frame or position an issue in a context the target audience can easily grasp. For example, when discussing a particular effect of trade, it is important to explain it in terms we all value (i.e., our homes and family, career opportunities, wage potential and quality of life). Attempting to discuss issues solely in economic, theoretical or non-emotional terms is likely to result in a lack of understanding or limited engagement on the part of the target audience.

Keeping the Message Simple

Just as important, it is essential to keep the message simple. To do so, narrowly focus on the goal. Unfortunately, when complex issues are discussed or responses to questions are provided to the media, policymakers, employees or investors, the communicator often attempts to convey too much information—creating confusion and new objections. In the end, the audience may not have the background, possess the necessary level of detail or connect all the dots. And even if the target audience is fully up to speed on every aspect, they may only retain 20 percent of what is expressed. The solution is not to repeat the points five times, but rather, to prioritize your answers with the most concise and compelling information available.

Furthermore, keeping the message simple and concise also will allow you to communicate it in little time. And since you are likely to only have a few seconds to convey a compelling argument on radio or television, few alternatives exist. And remember, credibility is key! Manage expectations and do not oversell what is realistically anticipated to occur based on a corporate decision or response to globalization.

Working with the Media

When dealing with newspapers, magazines, radio and television companies, as well as electronic and online media, it is imperative to understand one key thing: the media is bombarded with information daily. This information comes in numerous forms, such as news releases from companies and community groups, announcements from local, state and federal government agencies, and stories from wire services (i.e. Associated Press).

This enormous and overwhelming amount of information cannot possibly be covered in the press. So what makes the media select some stories over others? Simply put, reporters like unique, interesting and especially controversial stories that relate to their readers’ lives. Unfortunately, quite often the media may be quick to decide that any announcement regarding a company’s global business decisions could mean bad news for the public. As a result, when communicating your company’s global business decisions, be sure to let reporters know exactly how your decisions will impact your employees and local community.

Relationships with the Media

To ensure the best possible coverage of your company and its position, it is imperative to establish a relationship with the media before any potentially negative information is released. You can do this by suggesting a positive story idea before any difficult decisions are made. But you need to know that today’s media works more quickly than ever before.

Racing against the clock and competing with instantaneous information channels, the media does not have any time to waste. This is why you must respect the media’s time constraints and learn when is the best time to contact a reporter. In general, the best time of day to contact a news desk is early to mid-morning, but many reporters also work evenings. When in doubt, prior to sending any information to the media, call the reporter to introduce yourself and find out what is best for his/her schedule.

Put Answers in Context

The media, policymakers, employees and investors will increasingly ask about globalization, its impact and how your company plans to respond. Unfortunately, the answers provided by business executives, as well as those in corporate communications departments, often result in more, sometimes hostile questions.

Why? Those communicating the answers often do not put them in the appropriate context and/or do not have a sound understanding of today’s global issues. As a result, the answers usually create new objections, are muddled, complex or confusing, and sometimes appear to be purposefully evasive. This quickly creates an atmosphere of distrust. The result: negative publicity that in some cases has destroyed businesses.

Understand All Perspectives

In order to effectively respond to sensitive issues that could impact the interests of a company or organization, it is essential to have an adequate understanding of the subject, its leverage points, emotional hot buttons, likely objections and the talking points required to successfully overcome those objections.

In determining how to address various issues, proceed with a process I describe as riding the “logic train.” In discussing the dimensions of a particular topic, a flow of logic may drive the train in a particular direction. After more debate, an important point or obstacle may turn the train in another direction. And after even more deliberation, the train may turn on a totally different track. The benefits of this analysis are tremendous.

In addition to considering a variety of perspectives, the experience of riding the logic train reveals a multitude of issues not initially considered relevant. In the end, by looking at a topic from 360 degrees, you will be prepared to confidently and persuasively discuss the most controversial issues. This may be tantamount to playing chess—with a focus on the next four moves.

This article appeared in Impact Analysis, March-April 2007.

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the Manzella Report, is a world-recognized speaker, author of several books, and an international columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and the latest economic trends. His valuable insight, analysis and strategic direction have been vital to many of the world's largest corporations, associations and universities preparing for the business, economic and political challenges ahead.

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