I’ve been following the current U.S. financial situation with a mix of horror, fear, and fascination.
As an investor, I am naturally concerned. I’ve worked hard for my money and tried to invest wisely for the long term. Constant breathless reporting of “immediate collapse of the U.S. economy” and “the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression” doubtless stoke the fears of the average person, whether or not he or she is a regular investor in the U.S. stock market.
As a strategic communication/PR/IMC professional and college instructor in same, I am also fascinated by how our brothers and sisters who work in the financial sector are fairing these days. Recent events constitute the most dramatic scenario in Wall Street’s 216-year history. Household name brokerage firms with 100-plus-year histories like Lehman Brothers have filed for bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch’s 94-year practice as an independent brokerage, the nation’s largest, ended with its acquisition by Bank of America. Giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now nationalized and owned mostly by taxpayers.
Like many of my readers, I have friends who work in these organizations. Fannie Mae was a client of my consulting firm, LES POTTER INCORPORATED, years ago. The dramatic recent events are unprecedented to a large degree. Our financial situation is a perfect storm of forces coming together to create the state in which we now find ourselves. Some of the factors contributing to our current situation began a long time ago.
Could a strategic communication/PR/IMC professional have truly been prepared for this? No, not completely. But to me, the situation in which we are in cries out for communicators to learn as much as we can about business in general and finance and economics specifically.
One of the major roles I think communication/PR/IMC professionals play is to help our publics understand what is happening and how it affects them. That calls for one of our most valuable skills — taking complex matters and breaking them down into understandable information.
Knowledge of business, especially finance and economics, helps tremendously. But beyond that, it is critically important to be able to explain the complex in clear and simple ways in order to effectively communicate with sometimes frightened audiences.
For example, employees will be concerned about everything from continued employment prospects to retirement plans. It’s our responsibility to help them understand what’s happening, to help put things in context, and to show how it might affect all concerned.
We will get through this. But there are doubtless long days of hard work facing many communication professionals right now. Our hearts are with you.