For the LGBTQ+ community, Pride Month is a time of visibility, celebration and advocacy. But for corporate communications and marketing teams, acknowledging Pride can be a balancing act.

Being a true ally to the LGBTQ+ community in today’s fraught environment is more important than ever. Actions speak louder than words, even for people whose job is to communicate. Colleagues from our firm’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group share some guidelines on best practices of allyship:

  • Don’t be performative. Support for the LGBTQ+ community should first and foremost be rooted in the organization’s values and policies.
  • Do and say what you mean. Not every organization needs to participate in Pride. A company that doesn’t broadly support its LGBTQ+ employees or the community 11 months of the year shouldn’t think a splash in June will fix that – it usually backfires.
  • Take a stand and stick to it. As we’ve seen with Bud Light and the L.A. Dodgers, walking back statements or activities supporting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in response to random vocal opponents, typically makes things much worse.
  • It’s okay to ask questions. It’s important to avoid missteps and unforced errors that provide fodder for criticism. Vet corporate policies and marketing plans with LGBTQ+ employees and listen to all ideas, even if they don’t align with a preconceived notion of allyship.
  • Mistakes are forgivable; not fixing them isn’t. Develop a strategic and systematic social issues management program to prepare for the most problematic and likely risk scenarios, and develop mitigation plans for each. Assign leaders and liaisons among executives, marketers and the community, give them responsibility and hold them accountable.
  • Finally, remember: safety first. Threats of physical harm, destruction of property or behavior that endangers employees and/or customers should always be taken seriously and addressed immediately, even if doing so means ending a visible act of support. But be clear that your support for the LGBTQ+ community has not wavered in the face of these threats.

Crisis Cautions

Our friends at the FGS Health Media Insights newsletter recently shared advice from four team leaders about navigating critical corporate moments in the healthcare space.

Below are some of their key crisis takeaways applicable to any industry:  

  • Kim James: Have the right people in the room. “The personalities best equipped to navigate a crisis are sufficiently calm and level-headed to think ahead and also decisive enough to make a move and not get swept away in the current of the crisis. You want functional leaders able to focus on the information that’s most relevant and to make quick decisions while remaining flexible enough to shift course as new information emerges.”
  • Elly Burke: “Keep the company’s key messages up to date. This is baseline communications activity that pays major dividends when you’re in the pressure cooker. The last thing you want to be doing during a crisis is figuring out how to describe your company and its values.”
  • Chris Kittredge: Timing matters. “If a company releases information on a timeline that no one expected, investors might believe something is amiss, which can immediately make an issue feel like a crisis. Companies with good intentions around disclosures will want to make certain information public even if they’re not required to. But sometimes it’s best to wait for a regular milestone to disclose it so you don’t inadvertently inflate the significance of an issue.”
  • Melanie West: Don’t make a bad story worse. “When a good reporter reaches out and indicates they have reviewed documents or spoken with former employees about a crisis or reputational issue, it is rare to be able to materially shape their story. That said, a communicator can inadvertently say something and provide a new avenue to explore or stumble by being overly defensive or sloppy, thereby making the story bigger.”

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Money Talks

At COP28, negotiators from developed and developing countries will seek to make climate financing more accessible, available, and affordable. Governments will also:

Following years on the margins, finance has become a critical success factor that will cut across every climate conversation in Dubai. COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al-Jaber has highlighted this focus and indicated the United Arab Emirates will foster government-business engagement to unlock financing solutions.

Developing nations will look to increase the flow of capital from wealthier nations, as well as the participation of private finance in regions of the world experiencing the most dire climate impacts. 

Countries will also look to blended finance partnership models, which stand to concentrate then attract additional funding to take emissions intensive assets, like coal-fired power plants, out of the economy. 

Amid global economic uncertainty, financial institutions’ unique ability to swiftly allocate capital will likely be another focus for governments, which have been supportive of private sector efforts. Initiatives like the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which seeks to provide the framework and tools to accelerate action from private financial institutions, will also generate attention.

Subnational actors, like states and cities, will also look for a formal seat at the table as they make their case to prioritize high impact, shovel-ready projects and bypass domestic political bureaucracy and international development aid processes.

We Here for You

The HBO hit Succession has a lot of fans among FGS strategists—even when the plotlines come too close for comfort. 

On the eve of the show’s final episode, a few of our colleagues—Kyle Daly, Kerry Golds, Jill Lesser and Megan Moore—shared some thoughts about the show’s themes and what rings true about the industries and dynamics it depicts. 

  • Succession planning matters. The biggest challenge for a CEO transition is when there’s no plan, and the CEO is also a founder who has a hard time letting go. Succession planning can work very well when there is an intentional process with the board. Sometimes there is a proclivity to pick an internal candidate who has come up through the business. But given the amount of change that we’ve seen in the last few years—the pandemic, the transition to hybrid work, etc.—external candidates can provide much needed fresh thinking. 
  • There are some extraordinary elements in the way Waystar is managed. Most companies are run by an executive leadership team with a CEO who knows how to get the best out of them. Decisions tend not to be entirely personality-driven. At the same time, the tone and tenor a CEO sets really do trickle down. Logan Roy’s competitive eat-or-be-eaten, winner-takes-all environment makes it difficult for anyone to thrive professionally.
  • The show reflects a media industry in flux. Everyone is trying to figure out how to evolve the business model toward streaming. The last few years focused on growth and subscribers and in the last 12-18 months it’s all about profitability. There’s a lot of anxiety and change.
  • The relationship between business and the media is well-drawn. The Season 2 New York Magazine story plotline felt very real. The company tries to get the story killed but then realizes the reporting is there, followed by the familiar flurry of trying to read as quickly as possible, find the most damaging nuggets, figure out what the news cycle will be and steer it from there. And then, for better or for worse, like everything in today’s rapid-fire media cycle, everyone moves on.
  • The congressional hearing is a lesson in what not to do. Do not dismiss the hearing. Don’t destroy documents. Don’t be a difficult witness. Don’t be feisty. Prep. Lean on your friends in Congress, lean on places where you’re a major employer and provide economic benefits. Be humble, apologize, own the decision and fix the problem. 

Debt Roulette

Though the situation remains somewhat fluid and subject to change in the next hours or days, a debt limit deal—at least in principle—as soon as later this week appears likely.

The administration and congressional negotiators are feeling the combined crush of two clocks – the government running out of money as soon as early next month coupled with the time needed for legislation once drafted to work its way through the House and Senate. For example, under House rules – which Speaker McCarthy continues to insist on – members will be given 72 hours to review the final product and Senate consideration absent consent of all senators could take a week or more.

Ideally for all parties, this entire process would be wrapped up by June 1. But to be safe, McCarthy prefers the House pass a short term– a couple of days – debt limit extension after it has passed the deal so it can send both to the Senate. 

Basic components:

  • Discretionary spending caps. It looks like negotiators will agree to spending caps for two years on a single top line number for defense and non-defense discretionary spending below last year’s level. This will give Republicans talking points they need. But even if we avoid the debt limit cliff now, the sheer number of outstanding spending and policy issues that must be addressed later in the appropriations process —and the gulf between the parties—raises the odds of a shutdown this fall.
  • Permitting. McCarthy signaled last night that a deal to streamline energy permitting is very much on the table but he may not be able to reach agreement on the entire package of permitting proposals. So it could require revisiting in a stand-alone package later this year.
  • COVID clawback. The House-passed bill clawed back about $56 billion in budget authority from unobligated balances remaining in previous COVID bills. The final deal is very likely to scale this back by perhaps $5-10 billion.
  • Work requirements. The House-passed bill placed work requirements on three entitlement programs – Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The final deal seems likely to just include work requirements on TANF—and according to the Congressional Budget Office, these requirements seem unlikely to save very little if anything.

Eyes on the Court

‘Tis the season. The Supreme Court delivered big wins for Google and Twitter last week, rejecting lawsuits that sought to hold tech giants accountable for terrorism-promoting content on their platforms. 

However, the Court did not provide any broad statements on the immunity provision of Section 230, which protects internet companies from most legal claims over user-generated content. The justices disposed of the Google case with a three-page, unsigned opinion, stating  the Section 230 issues were not ready for a decision at that time. 

In the Court’s rejection of a suit regarding an ISIS attack on a Turkey nightclub, Justice Thomas emphasized that imperfect efforts to remove terrorist content did not equate to assisting in a terrorist act.

The Court also rejected an emergency request to block a local and state ban on assault weapons sales in Illinois as the justices continue avoiding Second Amendment-related disputes. 

Additionally, the justices agreed to hear two notable cases next term. One involves the “seven-member rule,” a federal law allowing a minority of House or Senate members to demand records from the Executive Branch, originating from a Democratic-led effort in 2017 to obtain records related to former President Trump’s hotel lease. The other case reviews a lower court’s decision that declared a congressional district in South Carolina an illegal racial gerrymander.

Tell Us How You Really Feel

How can CEO communications inspire capital market confidence? FGS Hong Kong Partner Kirsten Molyneux shares some insights:

  • Leaders spend around 70% of their time communicating. Stronger emotional intelligence in CEO communications can help CEOs create more effective interactions with the capital markets and build belief and trust. And that trust drives reputation and valuation.
  • It also takes 3 other vital ingredients: Transparency, integrity and consistency in the messages. Delivering on milestones and expectation management is also key for CEO comms.
  • CEO comms should be insight driven, agile and easily understood from wherever your stakeholders sit. Most good CEOs understand the importance of listening to investor feedback. This insight helps shape future communication, gives leaders perspective and avoids the echo chamber.
  • When dealing with difficult news, CEOs must play it straight and be very cognizant of how bad news may land. Avoid overcommunication until all the facts are known.
  • CEO comms should reflect a leader’s own authentic style. Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in establishing trust and inspiring confidence.

CEO communication is an incredibly important asset for any company and should be amplified in wider corporate comms, which builds up the belief in the corporate narrative. All of this helps inspire capital market confidence.