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For CEOs, (and perhaps RNS writers). A 15-point plan by Simon English

By Simon English, Senior City Correspondent, Evening Standard

1) Whatever you are saying, say it simply. If someone not familiar with your business can’t understand it, you’re doing it wrong.
2) Don’t be a hero. Doctors, nurses, binmen etc are the heroes. Don’t try to take credit for just doing your job.
3) Just doing your job includes not looking like an idiot. The opportunities to look idiotic have never been greater. Ask a professional before you make a public communication.
4) Bland statements about your commitment to looking after your staff need to be demonstrably true. Otherwise someone will demonstrate that they are not true. (real life example here)
5) If you have an idea to do something really good for staff, do it. Talk about it later if at all. Benefits to customers can be advertised, but perhaps not press released. Because it just reads like you think that being basically decent is an unusual thing. For you.
6) The people with the most reason to show off at the moment – nurses, doctors – are not doing so. That is the prism through which you measure every public utterance.
7) Assume everything you say is public. That certainly includes LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook posts you wouldn’t previously expect anyone to read.
8) Your staff are worried not just about their livelihoods but about their lives. They have never felt this uncertain. If there are ways you can give them certainty, make promises, do so. If you can’t, best not to promise what you may not be able to deliver.
9) So be honest about things. Saying “I don’t know” sometimes looks weak. Why don’t you know? Now it just looks truthful. Because there are all sorts of things you can’t know. Everyone gets that. They just want to see that you are thinking about something other than yourself.
10) Quarterly targets, annual results, your share price Do Not Matter. If your company survives, you did fine. Don’t talk about hitting targets as if that were significant. Internally, it is plainly stuff you need to know, but that is different.
11) If you are doing well from the crisis – sales of product x have rocketed – acknowledge that simply, without looking like you are cashing in (the best way to not look like you are cashing in: don’t cash in).
12) Number 9 re-run. If asked what you might do from the excess profits from sale of product x, it is ok to say “I don’t know yet”. You don’t have to pledge to give them all to charity. You can say it is early days and that other costs may swamp those profits. The key thing is: that decision is for later on.
13) You can plan for the future without looking like you are insensitive to the present. That means you plan for the next disaster, without trying to take credit for that now.
14) The businesspeople with the worst PR at the moment are all people who do their own PR (Tim Martin, Mike Ashley). Just sayin’.
15) Take a pay cut. Don’t advertise the fact. We will find out later whether you did or did not. You want to be in class A on that one.

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