In today’s interconnected world, geopolitical conflicts can send shockwaves globally across every segment of society, from governments and humanitarian organisations to businesses of all sizes and ordinary individuals. Once the initial shock subsides, and after we reflect on our role as global citizens in support of humanitarian interventions in the affected regions, we start to wonder whether geopolitical strife happening across the world would affect our everyday lives. It must come as no surprise that of course, it does.
As witnessed during recent events like the Russian-Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas conflict, companies face operational challenges that require thoughtful communication strategies to convey who they are as an organisation and what they represent.
Navigating geopolitical storms requires a multifaceted strategy, especially in industries where operations span international boundaries. Drawing insights from recent events and broader trends, here’s a guide on how companies can communicate effectively during geopolitical crises.
Three key steps to help you start off on the right foot:
- Stay informed: Staying informed involves regularly monitoring global news and geopolitical events, particularly those unfolding in regions that could impact your business. Consider subscribing to reputable news sources and geopolitical analyses to receive timely updates. Create internal channels for sharing relevant information and ensure that decision-makers are aware of potential developments.
- Add Expertise: Navigating complex geopolitical issues can be too daunting a task for most companies without such distinct internal capabilities or interdisciplinary backgrounds. Engaging external expertise from professionals in crisis communications or geopolitical analysis can provide valuable insights into the geopolitical implications of your business decisions, and help you formulate your response.
- Understand the political landscape: Acknowledging the inevitable link between business and politics involves assessing how geopolitical dynamics may impact your industry and operations. Conduct a thorough analysis of the political landscape, identifying key influencers, potential risks, and opportunities. This understanding will enable your company to make informed decisions aligned with broader geopolitical trends.
External Communication Amidst Geopolitical Crises
For industries facing the operational brunt of geopolitical tensions, effective communication is paramount. Here are five actionable steps:
- Communicate with Compassion: Compassion, empathy and understanding go a long way during times of geopolitical crises. Companies should recognise the human impact of conflicts. This involves humanising your communication and expressing genuine concern for the well-being of the impacted community and your work force.
- Start with Common Ground: Grounding communication in shared values establishes a common understanding and fosters unity. Identify principles – such as human dignity, compassion and safety, that resonate across diverse audiences, and craft your messages to emphasise these shared values.
- Maintain a Neutral Stance: When communicating externally amidst geopolitical crises, maintaining a neutral stance is paramount. Avoid explicit political statements that may alienate your customers, stakeholders, or the broader audience. Emphasise your company’s commitment to professionalism, inclusivity, and shared values, fostering open dialogue without endorsing specific political perspectives.
- Use Precise, Neutral Language: Use precise and neutral language to minimise the risk of misinterpretation and discontent among stakeholders. Carefully choose terms to describe geopolitical conflicts steering clear of emotionally charged or biased language (Is it a “war” or a “conflict”? Is it Israel-Hamas, Israel-Palestine or Israel-Gaza? Do we use more generalised terms like “security incidents in the Middle East”? Consider the global audience and potential language nuances to ensure your statements are interpreted accurately. This approach helps navigate geopolitical storms while projecting a positive external image.
- Avoid Overcommunication: Overcommunication, especially in the form of excessive clarifications, can be perceived defensively. Once a stance is communicated, trust the decisions made by your organisation. Avoid unnecessary repetition and communicate only when there’s new, specific, and / or useful information to share – or there is a reasonable expectation that there “should” be new information.
Geopolitical storms are an inherent part of the modern business landscape, affecting companies across diverse sectors. By embracing effective communication strategies rooted in shared values and compassion, firms can not only survive geopolitical crises but emerge stronger, more united, and more resilient.