Players: Constructing and communicating the bailout — tips for the typical executive

I think what we have here is failure to communicate.

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Meaning that Mr Bernanke and Mr Paulson are not used to having to explain their rationale nor are they used to being questioned.  Understood.  However, they are doing business with a whole new lender — the American taxpayer — so they need to both accept the fact that they must communicate on the audience's terms and recognize this might require an adjustment.

"Regular" executives face this on a regular basis. 

First, always think about what your audience needs, not just what you want.  For example, if you're getting ready to deliver a speech, the first thing to consider is the audience.  Why is that audience there?  What are the various constituencies in that audience, and what do they want to know or hear from you?  In this situation, it's critical that you deliver a message — built around your perspective and expertise — that either answers a question they have or tells them something they can use.

Second, consult the experts but stick to what you know.  Another example.  This morning, on CNBC, economist Diane Swonk was remarkably unconscious of the general audience for the bailout message when she said that some senators' questions were stupid and defended Secretary Paulson by asserting that he is not used to answering questions.  I'm sure Bernanke and Paulson are walking into this with a sense of duty — which is why, when you're listening to wonks like Swonk, take their perspective for what it's worth.  When you seek the opinions of others in your organization when constructing a message — as you should — make sure to use it to complete your message, not dominate it.  Sometimes you'll get an observation that isn't as inappropriate as what Swonk shared today — but that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep it in perspective, either.  Think for yourself.

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