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When uncertainty is normal

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Recently, Doremus and the Financial Times collaborated on a survey called “Decision Dynamic” in which 470 senior-level executives around the world were asked, “Which supplier is most likely to get work from you in tough times as compared to prosperous times?”

Interestingly, the top answer for a third of the respondents was not the cheapest or the supplier with the best/longest relationship (cited by 20%) or even the one that could prove ROI. The answer was the supplier most proactive in helping out.

What this underscores is a new reality: Business has never been more complicated, demanding or high-stakes.

One of the residual impacts of the global economic meltdown is that successfully navigating the new-business landscape will require skills and insights in which many senior executives do not feel entirely fluent. Collaborative thinking by smart people is going to be essential to creating short- and long-term successes.

Business communications agencies in particular, with their day-to-day experience creating solutions to complex business problems, are in a unique position to offer that proactive help to senior executives. Here are some thoughts on what that type of help may require:

Help clients accept ambiguity. As one professor at a leading business school put it, “The ability to manage the unknowable will be core to future leadership.”

Adhere to a nimble framework. Companies that can easily change their structure to meet market demands hold an advantage above the over-layered.

Restore internal relationships. This is a vital step for those companies that have recently downsized and where employees have been asked to multitask, or companies that have recently been restructured. A strong, committed internal work force ensures maximum effectiveness, particularly as new competitors emerge.

Rebuild trust. This is an essential step for reassuring external audiences such as investors, customers and prospects—constituencies that may feel betrayed or neglected by corporate fallout.

Identify priorities and create a strategy to achieve them. A seasoned and insightful perspective from a trusted partner helps the forest emerge through the trees.

As senior executives explore the new terrain ahead, communications that interact, create a dialog and deliver a satisfying experience for internal and external audiences will go far toward staking a successful claim for clients in the ambiguous “new normal.”

Business communications clearly have the opportunity to play a powerful role now in readying companies to take on new challenges.

In an uncertain world, this is one certainty.

Howard Sherman is president of Doremus. He can be reached at hsherman@doremus.com.

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