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Using public relations to make sure succession planning is a success

May, 2018

Succession planning is a challenge often overlooked until it's too late. Andrew Metcalf, director at Kent PR agency Maxim, believes that public relations has an important role to play in helping the transition to go as smoothly as possible.

For many firms, especially those that are family-run, there'll come a time when the current management look to hand over the reins of power to the next generation. The more time you have to prepare the better for everyone. 

However, with change comes uncertainty, and it can often be detrimental to relations with existing customers and workforce and impact market confidence. This is where public relations can really come into its own, but it requires a degree of planning and preparation.

How often do we associate a business with the founder, the managing director, and when that person goes for whatever reason we ask ourselves: "I wonder who'll take over?" or worse still: "I wonder what's going to happen to the business?".

Put yourself in the shoes of the successor for a moment. Coming out from behind the founder can often be quite daunting, especially if they've been the face of the business for as long as anyone can remember.  

Planning ahead for the transfer of power is vital for business continuity. It also gives you the maximum time to use PR in its broadest sense and not just with the media, to pave the way and start to raise the profile of the new team. 

How can you use public relations? 

  • Begin to share the limelight with the next generation of management. Start to use the planned successor as the spokesperson in your news releases to help raise their profile.
  • Make sure the successor is media trained. This will prove useful for when they take over, but also if there's media interest in the short-term.
  • Profile the new team on the company's website - and make sure what's written about them in terms of experience lays the foundations for the take over.
  • The successor should use LinkedIn to build their connections, so they can use the channel to announce their promotion. It's also worth having a company LinkedIn page to spread the word even further.
  • Prepare the ground by making sure the new team is known within the business networks that matter, whether it's your local community or industry sector, or both. 
  • Introduce the successor to key clients and suppliers and make sure they are representing the company at important events.
  • Encourage the succesor to write articles for the company website, positioning them as an expert in their field.
  • If you send an enewsletter or a printed version, think about bylining the successor in the editorial introduction.    

When the big day comes, make the most of the handover as it's a golden opportunity to celebrate what's been achieved, as well as to reassure and reinvigorate relationships with customers and suppliers going forward. Draft a press release, hold an event, invite the media - and don't forget to book a professional photographer and buy a celebratory cake.

Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Managing Director

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations,

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