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Supply chains – Becoming a voice of reason during a time of crisis

The UK currently faces a perfect storm of supply chain issues more severe than those experienced for decades, with The Guardian reporting that major retailers’ stock levels are at their lowest since 1983.

Arguably, there has never been a time when the lines between opportunity and threat have been so blurred. Cross-industry supply chains are under intense pressure, and nobody seems to know what the answer is, but for many the show goes on. Expectations and reality are not aligned. Mitigating the severity of the crisis is a challenge for everyone, but where do we start?

It’s hard to know where to start when keeping up with a crisis situation but we recommend independent news outlets as a good place to start. Although the focus can shift to suit media agendas, the major stories are always covered. Recently there has been intense coverage of the ‘pingdemic’, labour shortages, materials shortages and skills shortages. And who can forget, arguably the most important of all, the McDonalds milkshake shortage.

Some of the aforementioned issues are closely linked while impacting industries in unique ways. However, they all share a connection to supply and demand problems. Unfortunately, this is something the UK is not going to solve immediately – meaning conversations will continue.

So, if the mainstream, regional and trade news is one of the best places to go for your information and updates then we recommend aligning yourself with whatever the topic of debate is. When the topic directly involves you, this is an opportunity to establish yourself or your business as a thought leader, which will allow your voice heard.

The news outlets want businesses to communicate with them and reactive PR opportunities are plentiful – especially at the moment. Research shows bad news dominates the headlines, hence the focus on shortages and delays.

Your business is where it is today for many reasons, and it has a tale to tell. Providing comments and operating an efficient press office can lead to your business being in the right place at the right time, which has invaluable influence on stakeholders.

Having said this, utilising as many communication channels as your stakeholders are using is important. Establishing a consistent voice that people crave costs nothing through social media, unless of course you pay for ads but that’s a conversation for another day. One of the beauties of social media is that you don’t have to say much to say a lot. Merely starting a conversation can be helpful in bringing people together during difficult times.


Let it all out

Sometimes words come naturally to us, and we have to let it flow. For this, the value of a company blog is worth considering. You may have to direct your audience to your blog via your other communication channels but the space to voice your thoughts and feelings are limitless. It is also a shared space that can encourage different people to interact and learn more.

With talk of digitisation hard to escape and video conferencing becoming the norm since working from home started, sometimes you can’t beat a good verbal debate, or conversation if you like. Supply chains involve many voices that must be heard, so industry roundtables have to be on your radar.

Whether an individual’s role is host or attendee, it will reflect positively on the company. It shows the business is engaging in discussions around hot topics, has an awareness of how it wants to move forward and considers the views of others as just as important as its own.


Don’t forget who you are

Team spirit and morale are vital elements when companies are on the brink of sinking. Internal communications can often be overlooked by businesses, but this is where HR departments and communication departments can align their efforts to build a better flow of beneficial information and feedback regarding day-to-day discussions and larger industry issues.

From an employee perspective, having your voice heard is not too much to ask for and you may have ideas that usually wouldn’t get near the boardroom despite having huge potential for success. Whether it is an education campaign, an overhaul of the staff intranet or a feedback survey there is value in increasing two-way communication internally as well as externally.


Ultimate benefits

It’s often said that a problem shared is a problem halved. This is especially true of supply chain disruption. Whichever way you look at it, the journey to a solution starts with honesty and openness. Forget your pride for a moment and consider that if you’re struggling then it is likely that your competitors are too.

Offering your reaction or solution to a cross-sector challenge can have a positive impact on your reputation and give you an opportunity to manage your stakeholders’ expectations of the business. Remaining silent is likely to have the opposite effect, where stakeholders will have to come to their own conclusions, which may not be desirable.

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