Catalyst issue 4 | 2020: Listen, then speak

Catalyst issue 4 | 2020: Listen, then speak

How, when and why we communicate has always fascinated me and never more so than today. For example, there has been a very urgent need to hear from corporations and governments alike about their stance on crucial societal issues like Black Lives Matter, a conversation that has to both convey empathy, honest appraisal and future commitment.

We have also seen the chaos wrought by off-the-cuff announcements and woolly thinking translated into woolly communicating from governments on both sides of the pond when it came to managing the coronavirus epidemic. Here was a stark reminder that poor communication actually costs lives.

Marketers have a difficult line to tread, whether it is responding in times of fully-fledged crisis or simply dealing with a small set of disgruntled yet vocal customers. This is explored by Catalyst’s Editor-at-Large, Lucy Handley, who assembled a group of experienced communicators for this issue’s Big Conversation on page 21 to find out how companies should react in a crisis. They also explored the difficult but sometimes necessary approach of not responding at all.

In our cover story, Truth be Told (p16), we look at the more prosaic challenges brands face daily when trying to keep control of their narrative. We explore how this control doesn’t mean cracking down on dissenters but rather opening the dialogue to find out what went wrong and why. There’s a tongue-in-cheek warning on internet discussion boards – Don’t feed the trolls – but for the most part, upset customers deserve the right of reply. Equally, marketers should be using everything in their toolbox to make sure the correct information is served up, wherever the customer is looking for it. Even today, when you can’t move for tripping over someone talking about content marketing, a lot of companies still aren’t making the most of it.

The theme of communication runs through this issue like a stick of rock, from the best way to work across two cultures separated by a common language (Foster the special relationship, p42) to learning from our mistakes (Try, try, try again, p56). As always, our contributors have packed decades-worth of advice into Catalyst with some sharp, insightful takeaways which we hope will inspire and stimulate discussion. And that’s no word of a lie.

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Morag Cuddeford-Jones Editor, Catalyst magazine CIM

Catalyst issue 4 | 2020: Listen, then speak

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