Since we’ll be leaving the EU, we need to make sure we understand our fellow countrymen. PRCA research showed that 76 per cent of senior PR practitioners favoured remaining in the EU and 15 per cent wanted to leave. London voted ‘remain’ by 60 per cent to 40 per cent, as did Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Oxford, Cambridge and Scotland.
To advise organisations on managing their reputation, executive pay, CSR, employee engagement and crisis management, we need to understand the anti-establishment mindset of so many of our fellow citizens.
Some financial consultants may continue to live, work and advise within the London capital markets bubble, but effective ‘corporate’ advice involves greater awareness of society.
We need to stay calm and keep a clear head. We shouldn’t indulge in any blame games or conversations about a second referendum, or complain how close the vote was. Given that the whole of the establishment urged people to vote ‘remain’, its seemingly narrow loss was in fact a conclusive result. Businesses must reassure staff, customers and clients – and get on with life.
In the short term, there will be considerable turmoil. We have to hope the nation’s plan to handle uncertainty is effective. We need to help CEOs and clients secure what assurances they can on access to the European single market.
We can be certain that London will, over time, lose some European head offices and we will therefore lose some senior roles and chunky fees to Frankfurt and Paris. Consultancies that are equally strong across the three capitals should derive some benefit and there may be some defensive M&A activity.
We have to ensure that the opportunities Britain can create will outweigh what we will lose. My thoughts lie in six areas:
- Soft power is now even more crucial for Britain and we need to demonstrate the case for greater state spending to enhance this. Increased budgets for the British Council, VisitBritain, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UKTI would be a start.
- Turmoil creates opportunity for us, and there will be sizeable mandates helping organisations relocate headquarters and manufacturing capacity from the UK to countries inside the EU.
- Britain’s business brand has been harmed by the way the referendum campaign has portrayed the UK internationally. Our leading companies therefore need to explain Britain’s strengths.
- In regulated sectors like financial services and healthcare, Brexit can allow Britain to create opportunities. Organisations will still have to adhere to EU and US regulations, to market to those countries, but we can use our independence to create regulatory-inspired innovation to attract business to the UK.
- UK public affairs should see a revival. As fewer of the UK’s laws will be made in Brussels, those we create will be more important and therefore worth lobbying over.
- We all need to be more global in outlook and look towards the US, China and the Commonwealth in addition to Europe.
Be positive. Britain is a great country and although I believe we would have been Stronger In, we will also be Strong Out.
Tony Langham is chief executive of Lansons Communications