Sunday’s presidential election run-off in France has unsurprisingly dominated media coverage, becoming the latest in a long line of political events to do so. This is a trend that is far from over – the UK election, the German election, Brexit negotiations, geopolitical tensions and whatever Donald Trump tweets about next will all dominate news cycles in the coming weeks and months.
Such a politically charged environment creates inevitable challenges, not least for the corporate communications plans of financial services businesses. It will come as no surprise that here at JPES HQ, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the political landscape and what this means for clients’ communications activities.
The considerations and implications of proactively communicating in response to political events will of course vary depending on the scenario in question. Ultimately though, every communication decision can simply be boiled down to thinking about risk versus reward. In a strange way, there is almost an element of “politics” in these decisions themselves with commentators having to weigh the merits of speaking up against the possible disadvantages of doing so.
The benefits of proactively communicating appear pretty obvious – a few short thoughts on the (potential) impact of a political issue or event can often be of interest to media, particularly if those comments are quite direct in tone, leading to coverage that can increase brand profile.
A little less clear though are the risks and disadvantages of commenting on such things, despite the fact these can be significant and, in a worst case scenario, highly detrimental to a company’s brand. How will people react to what is being said? Is there the potential for comments to irritate and anger stakeholders (be these internal or external) and audiences that a company is targeting? Is there a potential for comments to become a hostage to fortune if a commentator’s expectations do not come to pass? Is there a risk of future ramifications from a political party/administration if they do not like the comments that are made?
In the environment we are now in, caution needs to be the watchword. While the vast majority of communications activities can be undertaken from a basis of positivity and optimism, politics-related initiatives should only be undertaken once the risks have been considered and objectively balanced against the potential rewards in order to accurately gauge the real merits of participating in debates. Quite simply, the political world (particularly now) is too subjective and partisan for people to not fully consider the implications that their comments might have.
Sometimes saying nothing can be the best course of action.