May 20, 2022
As tempting as it is to resist change – especially when things are flowing – doing so only delays the inevitable. Change is one of those constants in life, something that as PR professionals who are tasked with helping our clients through them, we know all too well. One of *the* most momentous changes in an organization comes when there is a shake up at the leadership level. This can come when someone is leaving for a new position, when a key executive has reached retirement age or, sometimes, for less exciting or desirable reasons (read: misconduct).
Whatever the reason, it’s important to be prepared. Here are five things to consider if your organization is making a leadership change.
Internal > External
Before even thinking about how the change will be communicated to customers and clients, media and prospects, first communicate INSIDE your organization. Ensure that all staff and board members are informed with accurate information and that they are aware of how the pending change will affect their day-to-day responsibilities, if at all. You don’t have to know everything at first communication of the news, but being direct, transparent and honest with your team will go a long way in building trust no matter what comes from the change in leadership.
Coordinate with all parties
Keep lines of communication wide open with the employee who’s leaving and, if they’re heading to a new organization or company, with the next team. Alignment of messaging and timing will ultimately benefit BOTH companies and create the most clarity when the news is announced.
Keep it Simple
When crafting both the internal and external messaging around the departure or change, we caution organizations to keep it simple. Get to the point quickly and reassure your audiences that you’ve got this handled. Additionally, if the change is a positive one for your departing employee, share a congratulatory note within. This is not only great for goodwill and morale, but it, in a sense, gives your audiences permission to be ok with the news.
Identify your Spokesperson
Identify, train and prepare one spokesperson from your organization to be the point person for any and all inquiries related to the news. While the spokesperson should be armed with talking points to address any incoming press or customer inquiries, it’s equally important that the entire staff knows to direct all inquires to them and not to be tempted to field any questions directly. Having one spokesperson is the key to a consistent message.
Create a Space for Questions
Create a forum where the public can go to ask questions and gather more information. Depending on the size and scope of your organization and the leadership shift, this could be a virtual or in-person town hall meeting, or simply an FAQ document that is created and shared with those who have questions.