Page Society guidelines: response to Ukraine conflict
As a Board member of the Page Society, the world's leading professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives and educators, Echo's Group CEO, Sandra Macleod shares Page Society's observations on how to respond to the Ukraine conflict.
Regardless of what happens next, here are seven key considerations for communicators as you navigate the crisis:
It’s not the time for long-term planning. Focus on protecting your people, safeguarding your business assets and monitoring the evolving situation. Right now, the geopolitical environment is not conducive to long-term planning—in fact, even mid-term planning would be a fool’s errand. Instead, focus on your people, your assets and your assessment of the situation through the lens of its intersection with your organization’s priorities—from brand to societal value.
For this crisis, speaking well is more important than speaking first. Often, speed is a virtue, but in a complex, rapidly developing situation like this one, not all constituents are aligned—particularly for multinational organizations. Look closely at how your stakeholders are behaving and listen closely to what they are saying. It makes sense to express support for Ukraine from a humanitarian perspective.
Taking action beyond what’s required by the sanctions is a difficult question. Consumers seem to favor action to cut business ties with Russia, at least temporarily. One salient example is BP’s costly decision to pull back from Rosneft. However, the sanctions are so dynamic that it’s very dangerous to do anything right now other than be as quiet as you can reasonably be operationally.
Watch out for bias. In the Middle East, conversations are drawing a sharp line between sympathy for Ukrainians and outrage at the reaction of the West in comparison to its response to the conflicts between Palestine and Israel.
Sanctions aren’t just about restricting economic activity—they’re a signaling mechanism. They are also a tactic for undermining Putin’s regime and creating anti-war sentiment. There is more public support for sanctions, relative to other options like military action even if it means higher prices for consumers.
Safeguard your technological infrastructure. Russia’s biggest lever to respond to sanctions is on the cyber front. The financial sector’s complicity in sanctions makes it a target. In short, get prepared for more cyber attacks.
There is pain ahead. Courtesy and understanding will be the true measure of your leadership and your organization’s actions. The Ukrainian diaspora is immense and emerging as an impactful stakeholder group. Lead with empathy. Align your statements with your actions, and your actions with your purpose.