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How to Have Y2K Compliant Communication

December 7, 1999
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With the potential for a wide range of problems at the turn of the century, including the very hyped computer disruptions, there is also the potential for some companies to either distinguish or embarrass themselves.

In their efforts to minimize technological and operational trauma, those in charge often ignore communications planning. Ultimately it will be people, not technology, that react to what may occur. The turn of this century can be an opportunity to form lasting impressions regardless of glitches or glory.

Executive Communications Group, of Englewood, New Jersey, offers the following ideas to consider:

  • Identify your main audience groups—If your company has any connection to the public at large, you should have a bank of statements prepared that will put people at ease. Consider the communication needs of your employees. If things get ugly, you should be prepared to rally the troops and lead them into battle. If everything goes according to plan, how will you thank them for a job well done? Is your management ready with proper words of appreciation?

Also consider your external stakeholders, including clients or customers, board members, and shareholders. The long-term financial impact of miscommunication with these critical groups could far exceed any court settlement.

  • Perception vs. reality—Although you may know ‘everything’s fine,’ don’t assume your audience believes it. Make extra efforts to analyze what people will be feeling, as well as thinking. If you don’t acknowledge and address their emotional state before, during and after the big day, don’t be surprised if your future efforts to connect with them fail.
  • Be prepared for success—If your systems are rock solid, how will you leverage this success without appearing haughty and self-serving … especially when your competition is faltering? This requires a high level of finesse but can ultimately position you above the rest.
  • Rehearse different scenarios—this should include first identifying who will say what to whom and for what purpose. Then get the crisis team together to practice reactions to these scenarios. This way, when the pressure’s on, they will be able to deliver the message with clarity and credibility.
  • Plan for two main outcomes—Problems (severe or mild) and no problems. If there are none, seize the opportunity and use this success to your advantage.

SOURCE: Executive Communications Group, Englewood, NJ.

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