Last week, our country participated in the age-old tradition of peaceful transition of power.  While most executive changes don’t typically involve the Oval Office, they all face similar challenges. 

New executive teams often result in change, both internally and externally, and fear or anxiety may be the byproduct of these shakeups. As employees, clients and even media begin to speculate about the organization’s future, the vital role of the leadership and communications teams is to reassure and re-engage.

For PR professionals involved in the transition, clear communication is the key to a successful and smooth “changing of the guard”. Adhering to a few sound principles will help: 

Plan ahead, way ahead. Forward thinking and strategic planning should be incorporated early on. Together, as partners, thinking about and talking about the transition well ahead of time allows for ample preparation and strategy development for the succession. It also ensures that the right questions are asked proactively and that messaging is developed well ahead of when it is actually used.

Be in the room where it happens. A crucial component of success comes from truly being a part of the process from the beginning: meeting with the board or key leadership, discussing a strategy and putting a timeline in place in order to meet goals.  PR executives can also guide leadership on communications process and prepare them for the transition.

Transparency goes a long way. When handling internal communications, it is important to be transparent whenever possible. With more information available, there is less chance for the rumor mill to disseminate false claims.  Communicate frequently, be open and try to acknowledge the changes ahead. It allows a sense of a surety and trust within the organization. 

The first 100 days following any transition are critical, but our work as communications executives doesn’t stop there.  In fact, day 101 marks the continuation of the new campaign. The first year is an equally exciting time and the work continues with ample engagement opportunities ahead. Acknowledge any key milestones and find news pegs and fresh ways to keep your executive top of mind.

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