Friday, June 12, 2009

TOUCHDOWN: FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE WHEN DEALING WITH A NEGATIVE

When you are going against the grain with a communications effort, it is always best to approach cautiously, be aware of potential pitfalls, address concerns before they are sprung on you - and offer up avenues to move the discussion forward. The current economic situation is obviously wreaking havoc around the world. In the U.S., the Obama administration put forward suggestions for a “Buy American” policy. Now, while it’s obvious that Canadian companies would be concerned about this, it was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCoC) who took a surprising stance against the policy – at least somewhat. Myron Brilliant, USCoC’s senior vice-president, outlined some of the potential results of protectionism, namely the risk of retaliatory responses from trading partners like Canada. “We could be at risk for billions of dollars and we're very concerned about those numbers,” he told reporters in Washington. “We're sending warning signals now that if we don't fix it the numbers could get very big. We would face potential retaliation from our friends in Canada, potentially from Europeans, and we want to avoid that.” Equally important, Brilliant set out some ideas on how to alter the current policy and made suggestions regarding next steps. Communicating positives and providing forethought when presenting a contrary idea makes it easier to focus on what can be done rather than getting into mud-slinging. In stark contrast to the efforts of the USCoC was the executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition who offered nothing constructive, nor did he try to diplomatically open the door for discussion. Rather than seeing an opportunity to talk, he merely said the USCoC’s position was laughable. Comparatively speaking, Mr. Brilliant’s communications were nothing short of, well, brilliant.

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