In spite of currently favourable economic conditions, restructuring is still the order of the day – primarily as a result of political and technological trends. Factors that influence business operations include sanctions and trade conflicts, Brexit and increasing regulation. Moreover, digitalisation is placing mounting pressure on all industries. Growing customer demands and heightened price pressure due to new competitors are affecting the consumer goods and automotive industries in particular. Restructuring measures focus on adjusting business models while making organisations and processes leaner.
Restructuring programmes have become more and more complex for the following reasons:
1. Multiple simultaneous issues: Digitalisation offers companies an opportunity for a turnaround; it is both the reason and key catalyst for strategic adjustments. At the same time, it is also the greatest challenge. Capital is needed to overcome the digital backlog. And that means resorting to radical cost-cutting in certain business areas, while investing and expanding in others. The pivotal task for communications teams is now to convey the good news and the bad news simultaneously.
2. Accommodating individual interests: Restructuring programmes no longer concentrate on a limited number of centres affected by change. In a time of digitalisation and innovation, a more comprehensive readjustment must be made to business models that impacts all business fields and units – both nationally and internationally. However, the rational business approach often clashes with individual interests. In politics and public relations alone, widely diverging demands on multiple different levels and in various regions need to be taken into account. This magnifies the number of stakeholders to be factored in.
3. New business solutions: When considering ways of refocusing business activities and managing digitalisation, executives are looking beyond the traditional strategic repertoire. Partnerships and platforms, demergers and new joint ventures, disaffiliations and spin-offs, outsourcing and out-tasking must be explained anew to the stakeholders; the advantages must be spelled out from a variety of viewpoints.
Communicating during the restructuring process means managing multiple stakeholder groups. Investors, suppliers, customers, mass media, policymakers, works councils and employees need to be informed and included. Of particular significance in this regard are the follwing:
A stable process: Restructuring programmes create uncertainty and nervousness. Communications should comply with all legal requirements and guidelines on content and should acknowledge the demands of all affected groups. This minimises speculation and knee-jerk reactions, and ensures that communications are active, not reactive. Moreover, this enables senior management to maintain authority over what is communicated and how it is interpreted.
Real perspectives: In restructuring programmes, facts, figures and data dominate. Communications that draw a convincing picture of the future make it easier for all involved to accept cutbacks; it also makes the company more attractive to customers and the capital market in the long term.
As a specialised task force, we make complexity manageable and ensure that all relevant stakeholder groups are taken into account.
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