Careless Whispers

Careless whisper picture

Communication has dominated the news this month, being offered up as an excuse from groups as diverse as football managers to the Chinese government right through to the American Academy of Motion pictures.

From a fleeting glance it could seem that communication problems have become the latest expedient sound bite that savvy PR operators turn to in an effort to make problems and missteps disappear from news cycles. However, taking a closer look at each individual situation, a lack of purpose, discipline and control in communication runs through all of these organisations and has led to huge breakdowns in performance.

What’s interesting is that on the other side of the problem, many social media and online messaging accounts have upped their campaigns to convince businesses to embrace their services as an effective communication tool, the very services that have been complicit through all of these problems.

Loose lips sink markets

Undoubtedly the organisation whose woes have had the largest affect globally comes from the communication failings from within the Chinese Stock Exchange.

The dramatic fall of the renminbi following the difficult market conditions in Beijing and the resounding shockwaves felt across the global markets looks to have been for the most part largely avoidable.

In the absence of official communication from the Chinese government, worried investors took their cues from Weibo and other social media platforms, looking for any utterance or post from even the lowest level official in an attempt to make sense of the situation.

The result was a classic case of the blind leading the blind, with rumour and conjecture leading the market in the absence of official guidance. Such was the fallout that it has prompted the Chinese government to partake in a very unusual mea culpa moment and provide assurances to the global markets that there communication issues would be a thing of the past.

Dispatches from the boot room

Closer to home, it seems that every underperforming Premiership football club has pinned their failures on communication issues between management and teammates. In actual fact, the main communication problem at some of the biggest Premiership clubs has been the lack of discipline and control over players and staff members’ use of social media and the press.

Managers have been undermined, players have had their commitment called into question and even boardroom members have suffered at the hands of communications which were at best, careless and at worst, malicious.

Regardless of the intent, the fact remains that for all the PR departments and positive spin these institutions employ, time and time again we have seen that an errant tweet, Instagram post or comment has the ability to destabilise and derail some of the largest football clubs in the world.

Refine and simplify

What both of these examples serve to prove is that in the modern world of communication – inaction, naivety and a lack of discipline can be fatal. The reality of the pressure and expectation for how companies handle their communication seems to have caused paralysis within some organisations.

Unfortunately, the unforgiving and fast moving nature of the modern world demands a strong, unified voice with no room for ambiguity or dissent. In the absence of leadership and clarity in communication, the message is open to speculation and distortion or worse, any flippant or careless comment from anyone connected, no matter how tenuously, becomes the official response.
Crucially, companies must not be swayed or distracted by the huge options available for communication.

Those organisations that have mastered the world of modern communications have done so by maintaining a disciplined and very simplified approach.