I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recently with industries which might be described as ‘beleaguered’. The press have decided that they are evil and to blame for society’s ills. The online world is awash with negative comment as people pile in to criticize. Politicians denounce them and regulators sharpen their knives.
In many cases it’s all tremendously unfair, and certainly they think so, but as we know this is not really the point. They are, as the saying goes, being tried in the court of public opinion and are generally looking at a pretty stiff sentence.
What always surprises me is the continued desire by companies or organizations to adopt what might best be described as the “leave us alone” strategy. Broadly, this depends on a line of argument which goes something like this. “We’re really important to the (normally global) economy. You don’t really understand what we do because you’re not technical like us. We’re quite capable of self-regulating. We’re really very responsible (no, really). Best to leave us alone.” Whilst I totally understand the attraction of this approach, I have one small issue with it. I’ve never seen it work. Ever.
Sometimes, one has to bow to the inevitable and even to see the opportunity in said bowing. Do we have a vision for a different and better world? Do we have a solution which everyone can embrace, or at least a suggestion of one? So many companies want to be thought leaders and this can be very hard to do (not least because you need leading thoughts). But in sectors under attack, genuine leadership is often difficult to find as everyone runs for cover, and people are genuinely interested in informed opinion. This is powerful stuff for the company prepared to stick its neck out.
The challenge is always to look beyond the immediate crisis, to the positioning opportunity. A positive, solution-oriented, industry-leading point of view, stated passionately, widely and consistently, can only stand organisations in good stead. It puts their opponents on the back foot and shapes the debate. It raises morale internally and galvanizes the sector. After all, they might as well. The one thing we can say with certainty is that they won’t be left alone.
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