Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Pope's resignation highlights communications issues for international business leaders

Many international business leaders have been struck by the dramatic resignation of  Pope Benedict on 11 February as the leader of a huge multinational organisation presiding over 1.3 billion people around the world. Pope Benedict's reasons for stepping down will resonate in the commercial world - for lacking the mental and physical strength to continue to carry out his duties effectively but criticism will follow about the lack of succession planning and a smooth transition.  The fact that the Vatican was rocked by the Pope's announcement is public knowledge will also take its toll.  As in any organisation it will not inspire confidence to know that the leadership who must now elect a successor is very much on the backfoot. It is not helpful to have to take a decision in the full glare of the international spotlight. In human terms, few people around the world will question Pope Benedict's justification for his decsion given that he is an octogenarian.  But in leadership and communication terms things could have been done much better.  In crisis management criteria the performance is poor given the inevitable international focus on the Vatican.  No slick front- of-camera leader stepping forward to allay public fears. No calming statements being issued that a smooth path ahead has long been planned. No pacifying remarks about continuity and business as usual. The sense of shock that engulfed the Vatican as the Pope made his announcement is evident; notes of panic have clearly been struck. This is a perilous position for any international organsiation to be in.  The Pope's dramatic departure will have a lasting impact on the Catholic Church - he will go down in history as the first pontiff to resign unexpectedly in some 600 years.  Few business leaders have to worry about setting such a precedent but many - including the most successful public figures - will have contemplated resignation at some point during their tenure as head of an organisation.  The Pope's decision may shake the confidence of many catholics around the world. The words "If he doesn't have the strength to continue what hope for the rest of us!" have already been proliferated in many countries.   The Vatican will need to recognise that Pope Benedict's successor will have a major communications task from the first moment he assumes the papacy.  It is not a task for the Pontiff alone but a collective focus to ensure that the best interests of the global organisation - in this case the catholic church across the globe - are served. Globally effective communications are central to core business function. The Vatican will need to demonstrate it is on top of its game.  www.globalnewsmakers.com

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


The World Economic Forum's annual gathering at Davos with its focus on "Resilient Dynamism" is a timely reminder of the need for momentum in tackling the most pressing issues facing the world. For the 3000 participants geopolitical issues including global terrorism with a spotlight on the conflict in Mali and the recent hostage crisis in Algeria - the Eurozone crisis, global health issues, food security, environmental issues are some of the pressing challenges.

Davos will undoubtedly remind the powerful business and political leaders present of their moral and civil obligations to find answers to urgent global challenges and the opportunities for communicating strategically on issues high on the world's agenda.  It is unusual to find a politician who does not understand the critical value of influencing the media as a way of targeting select audiences.  International businesses should follow suit. In today's highly digitised world with one single click a potentially significant investor anywhere in the world can be impressed by a business thousands of miles away.  And in today's globally competitive environment that matters.  Surprisingly few globally significant companies invest commensurately in resources to shape media and other external views, despite the tangible value that is added. International business activities demand skill and dexterity in the field of communications.  Displaying a consummately professional approach to the media including compelling presentation and public speaking skills, highly accessible core messaging,  thought leadership on important global issues will separate the wheat from the chaff in the eyes of investors, analysts, shareholders and global media. Strategically influential communications are not just for Davos and key dates in the annual business cycle, they are a continous activity which every  serious business should focus on.