The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step down as senior royals – and in particular the manner they announced it – raises interesting questions about the best way to announce senior changes in an organisation.
Even though a leadership change in a business would never gather the media attention devoted to the Royal couple’s announcement, change can be challenging and should always be sensitively handled.
Here are our suggestions of the key issues SMEs and family businesses should consider if they are planning a leadership change.
Keep key players in the loop
Press reporting suggests that the other senior members of the Royal family had little or no prior notice of Harry and Meghan’s announcement. In a business context this would be a very unwise approach. It would be far better to plan ahead and to discuss and agree a strategy for making the announcement with all key players.
Your communications planning should include agreeing a timeline for the announcement and preparing the statement as well as agreeing responses to potential follow up questions. Your statement should explain the facts and any important background information such as reasons for the change, or what the change will mean for the business.
You should also take time to draft social media posts, customer emails, articles for company intranets and any other communications collateral you may require.
This planning stage should include your leadership team along with senior HR and marketing/public relations colleagues.
Tell employees first
With any organisational change it is important to tell your people first.
The size and culture of your business will help to inform how this is delivered. Face to face is best, with simultaneous briefings in different locations. A pre-agreed statement and FAQs should ensure that all staff are hearing the same, unfiltered information.
Issue a statement to the press
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose to make their statement via their Instagram feed. With an enormous following they could be guaranteed of quickly getting their message out and they clearly feel strongly about communicating directly to the public, without the filter of the media.
However, the best approach for a business to take is to send your agreed statement out to all key media contacts at the same time. This can be done at the same time as you update your website and social media channels.
Be prepared for media questions and have key spokespeople briefed and available to be interviewed if requested.
Don’t forget your customers and partners
As well as updating your customers and partner organisations via social media, it would be wise to use any direct channels of communication you have set up too. Use the most appropriate channel for each audience. For some key customers or stakeholders, you may want to make personal phone calls, while for others an e-shot may be sufficient.
Change is inevitable in any organisation but with the right planning and preparation, communicating leadership change can be done in a sensitive and positive way.