Imagine this scene.
You’ve just been retained by a major corporation to create a new internal PR campaign. This is a major issue. Only 26 percent of the employees think the company is going in the right direction. Less than half of them think the boss is doing a good job. And less than 10 percent think the entire management team is doing a good job. They’re pissed off because they haven’t had a real raise in years while they see senior management rolling in dough. The situation is so serious that you have been recruited by and report to the CEO. You’ve been there a week and it’s time for a one-on-one meeting – a candid chat on how you’re going to turn things around.
You have one undeniable plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face way to begin the conversation. With the truth. “Boss. Let’s assess the situation. Internal morale is in the dumps because that’s where it should be. We haven’t had anything good to report, for all practical purposes, in years. Our debt is up. Our operational problems are mounting and the percent of what we do that can be considered ‘excellent’ has shrunk from a globally admired achievement to a global embarrassment. Our hard assets – our infrastructure for getting things done – are aged and outdated and falling behind the competition everyday. Unexpected new competitors are voraciously going after the global dominance that used to be ours; they’re attacking us in unpredictable ways at unpredictable times and places. We’re having serious fights among ourselves – we’re even killing each other. You know the list can continue. So, let’s accept that people are justified to be mad.”
There’s a pause. Then you’re asked: “So? What do we do?”
There are a number of recommendations you can make. Here’s what Donald Trump would say if he were the one giving the advice: “These people need leadership. They need hope that things will improve and they’ll keep their jobs. They need to see the trends they’ve live with for years begin to reverse themselves. So, let’s make them believers in our company again.”
There’s a pause. Then The CEO asks Trump: “And? Keep going. What do we do?”
Trump continues: “You go out there and speak to our employees. Tell them that everything will be great. That you’re going to bring back our glory days.”
Pause. Question: “And?”
“Well, don’t we need to tell them how we’re going to do that?”
“Nope. These people are so down in the dumps they’ll be more than happy just to hear that you’re going to make things great again. And if anyone disagrees, call them a jerk.”
“But some of our people want us to expand by adding new products and others want us to expand by going into new geographical regions. Aren’t we going to have to tell them which strategy we’re going to pursue?”
“Nope. Just tell them that you’re going to make things great again. Both sides will cheer. If anyone disagrees tell them they’re a loser.”
Pause. Quizzical look. “That’s it? It’s that simple?”
Well, that’s how Donald Trump would run an internal PR campaign. If you were the CEO, is that the strategy you would execute?
graphics by Jack Moreh