The New Normal: Planning for the Next Black Swan

By Alistair Robertson - Creative and Strategy, Nucco Brain.

Creative Insights

Having best-practice comms in place can be the difference between organisational success and failure.

“A black swan event.” Now there’s a term, much like “unprecedented”, that’s been used more excessively in the last few weeks than ever before.

Depending on who you listen to, the current COVID-19 situation is a complete black swan event. Or, if you’re a virologist, nothing black swan-like at all.

And for those among us who aren’t sure what a black swan event is – and to be fair just a few weeks ago the answer would have been nearly all of us – the general consensus is as follows:

“An unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected and has potentially severe consequences. An event characterized by its extreme rarity, impact, and (I love this extra bit) the widespread insistence it was obvious, in hindsight”.

Whether or not we agree on COVID-19 being an event of this kind – and here at Nucco Brain we know a little about the disease having worked with the UK Government and Imperial College  to provide public information – we can all agree that the current pandemic not only caught governments around the globe off guard, but much of the business community too.

UKRI | Infographics
UKRI | Infographics

We work with many of the world’s largest corporations and institutions, and we see day-to-day the difference that strategic corporate communications planning can make to ensuring organisations are not caught out when industry-changing situations take place. But it’s our experience of working with one particular sector that has made us particularly adept at helping others.

Learning from Management Consultancies
Consultancy firms spend an inordinate amount of time helping organisations and themselves build strategies that long-term investment decisions can be built around. We work with a variety of these businesses and regularly help them communicate their often complex plans, in an uncomplicated manner. Take, for example, our work for Deloitte that helps audiences in the Middle East understand dramatic changes to their tax environment.

Deloitte | Video Campaign
Deloitte | Video Campaign

The consultancies approach to data and scenario planning is what has allowed them to gain a deep understanding of both their and their clients’ present and future needs.

In our opinion these two questions should not only be asked by management consultants but by every corporate communications professional around the world. 

The future isn’t so far away
At Nucco we believe that this sense of corporate honesty does not need to be kept for assessing the far distant future. During times like the current pandemic, organisations are being instantly celebrated as good corporate citizens, or decried for their perceived profiteering and individualism.

Knowing how your stakeholders – both internal and external – are likely to react to your organisation’s behaviour during difficult times may make for good or “less good” reading. But whichever it is, it’s essential you have a plan and communications ready to go, to either maximise or minimise the impact of your situation.

We told a similar story for John Lewis last year when significant changes to their partners pension schemes needed to be communicated. Whether it’s good or bad news you need to tell – having a thoughtful and relevant plan is essential.

John Lewis Partnership | Video Campaign
John Lewis Partnership | Video Campaign

Get ahead for tomorrow, today
In short, now is the time to plan for the future. And that includes both the next few weeks and the longer term. This terrible virus will undoubtedly create huge change in every sector of industry, and corporate communication professionals must be ready to react whenever they are needed.

We hope this glimpse into the consultancy world and the use of scenario planning helps you realise what your organisation needs. And of course, if you want help getting your business ready, please contact us today

About the author:
Alistair leads the Creative and Strategy teams at Nucco Brain. Having spent much of his career in large agency groups in both the UK and US, he has won creativity and effectiveness awards at every major award show in the world, and has previously written for the likes of AdWeek, MediaPost and The Drum.

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