How public relations practitioners can help businesses successfully navigate Brexit

As Brexit negotiations continue, here's why businesses should look to their PR practitioners – and ideally CIPR members - for support in navigating the complexities and long-term transition.

The results of the EU referendum sent shockwaves through the world and presented businesses with an unprecedented challenge.

Brexit represents considerable risk but also great opportunity for us all. It will cause monumental change, the impact of which is impossible to predict, across the economic, political and civic landscape.

But amidst the period of political turbulence, UK companies can rely on their PR practitioners to help support them through these uncertain times.

CIPR commissioned report

In a recent report Brexit and Public Relations in 2018 (opens as a pdf), the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) examined the role public relations is playing in preparing businesses for Brexit.

The survey found that fewer than 1 in 10 of the mostly senior PR professionals who responded felt that their organisations were happy with the Government’s approach to Brexit.

There was also concern among respondents that organisations weren’t yet preparing either quickly enough or appropriately.

Only 40% of respondents stated that their organisations were talking to staff about Brexit; just 30% of respondents felt their organisations were exploring their strengths and weaknesses against the requirements of Brexit; and few were changing policies to prepare for change.

Worryingly, the report found less than a quarter (22%) of respondents felt that their clients or employers were prepared for Brexit and fewer than that (21%) didn’t even believe that some of their employers or clients were prepared at all.

More than 60% of respondents to the survey agreed that better engagement through public relations would improve their organisation’s Brexit preparations.

PR’s role in helping business

So how can public relations practitioners help navigate the complexities of the next few years?

Working across the specialisms - internal communication, public affairs, media relations and investor relations - PR practitioners can help businesses build resilience through:

·       Strong, effective relationships with core stakeholders including staff, customers, suppliers, investors, Government and other key groups

·       Using all the skills of empathy that public relations can call on, as well as extensive social research

·       Leadership to ensure your organisation’s voice is heard

·       Political intelligence and influence

CIPR members are being supported by the leading industry body to help organisations prepare for Brexit with confidence and resilience.

To assist members, the CIPR will:

• Work with members through scenario planning meetings and sharing the recommendations

 • Offer a basic guide to Brexit, with regular updates on political activity as the date for the UK’s departure draws nearer, sharing key questions for professionals that arise from each significant development

 • Signpost useful information, key business contacts, best practice from other sectors and commentary on the possible impacts of Brexit

• Offer more guidance on the role of public relations at Board level, including analysis of changes affecting corporate governance and support for public relations as the practice that develops comfort with, and confidence in operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous macroeconomic environment

• Hold quarterly Brexit meetings

This activity will equip CIPR members with the information and tools they need to help the organisations they work with prepare for Brexit.

As the CIPR report concludes, much about the impact of Brexit is unknown and in times of unprecedented uncertainty, volatility, and ambiguity, organisations must find a new level of resilience.

With a significantly different commercial landscape ahead, organisations must be both receptive to new ways of working and communicative. Success will follow those led by flexible, highly-skilled public relations professionals with the depth of knowledge and experience to respond effectively to change.