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Hold the line: The importance of continuing to communicate in a volatile environment

Hold the line: The importance of continuing to communicate in a volatile environment
Bryn Woodward Instinctif Partners

By Bryn Woodward, Associate Partner

Businesses in the Built Environment sector are facing what can feel like an insurmountable set of challenges – high interest rates, a cost-of-living crisis, awful planning environment, and a much higher cost of debt. In that context, there is a clear temptation to pause all communications, say nothing, and purely focus on weathering the approaching storm.

That would be a mistake.

In the current environment, it is more essential than ever that companies demonstrate strategic progress, via whatever levers and milestones they have at their disposal, and strategic communications is an essential part of that.  

If we look at two of the biggest agenda items in Boardrooms across the sector, financing and the political environment, the need for regular, strategic communications is clear.

With interest rates at a 15-year high and companies contending with a much higher cost of debt as a result, as well as volatile markets and falling valuations, refinancing on sustainable terms represents one of the most significant challenges facing many companies in the sector. In simple terms, in these types of conversations, when banks are reviewing any and all factors to determine how to approach negotiations, being able to point to clear examples of strategic progress and delivery can only be positive, and there is no better way of doing this than having concrete examples in the media and on owned channels.

Secondly, whatever your political persuasion, it is clear that the Built Environment sector is more exposed to the whims of politicians than most, as new policy announcements can transform trading conditions instantaneously both for the positive and for the negative. Given it is almost certain that we will see a General Election next year, it is vital that companies ensure their voices are being heard in the corridors of power, and that policy development takes into account their priorities and challenges. To do otherwise would be incredibly short-sighted and would leave businesses open to that most toxic of forces – uncertainty.

In this context, there are some clear actions that businesses should be taking:

  1. Demonstrate strategic progress: Develop a comprehensive plan with a focus on finding as many milestones as possible, financial and operational, to demonstrate strategic progress
  2. Review financial messaging: In a volatile and challenging trading environment, it is vital that all strategic messaging is targeted, easy to understand, and well-reasoned. As a result, stress testing any existing content is highly advisable. 
  3. Prepare for Labour: Given the likelihood of a Labour victory next year, it would be irresponsible not to take steps to prepare for a Labour Government:
  • Risk register: A crucial first step is identifying areas where Labour policy and a Labour Government might impact a company’s day to day operations
  • Develop key asks: With the political bent of Government likely to swing for the first time in a decade, it is important that all businesses formalise what they want to see from any new administration; importantly, this needs to be achievable and at least roughly aligned with the Labour leadership’s priorities.
  • Build relationships: With the first two steps in place, it’s time to build relationships and start influencing the individuals that matter.

Instinctif Partners’ experienced Built Environment team is well placed to support with all of the above. From carrying out a comprehensive review of financial messaging to developing a robust political engagement plan, the Built Environment team can help navigate your business through whatever lays ahead.

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