Xenia Kingsley

Hypernormality and coping with change

Posted on 14th October 2016 by Xenia Kingsley

I love Halloween. As a kid, it was almost as big of a deal at my house as Christmas – and Christmas was a big deal (italicised for emphasis). While I’m in the midst of a month-long horror film binge, one of my friends is planning a ‘Deaths of 2016’ party. As they prep for the party, I can’t stop thinking about the theme.

This year has given us a depressingly plentiful bounty of deceased celebrities for costume inspiration, though the host himself is planning to dress as Fabric, the famous London nightclub, which was shut down by Islington Council this month. Sadly (for some), many things have come to an end this year; from Britain’s membership of the EU to David Cameron’s career and (all opinions are my own) 41.3% of American voters’ common sense – at the time of writing.

Sure, there have also been some positive changes – scientific discoveries like Earth’s second moon and the existence of a new prime number for example, so it would be glib to just write 2016 off as an annus horribilis. But it’s hard to deny that it’s been choc-full of dramatic change. Documentarist Adam Curtis went so far as to coin the term ‘hypernormal’ to describe this tumultuous year. It’s best summed up for me by this strip by Adam Ellis.

Adam Ellis - We don't talk about 2016

As exceptionally irregular – or hypernormal – as the year’s been, the fact of the matter is that change is a constant in the corporate world and the way that we deal with it defines what we do.

Part of our role as B2B communicators is to embrace the unexpected and make sense of it all with analysis and commentary. It’s our responsibility to monitor change, identify trends and model predictions. We can’t ignore it or bury our heads in the sand – even if it messes with our plans.

As Joel Harrison recently wrote in B2B Marketing, “There’s one skill or attribute above all others that’s fundamental to determining a senior B2B marketer’s success or otherwise in today’s world: that is their ability to manage or respond to change.”

But where does this ability come from? Can we learn to cope with change or is it a skill some people just inherently have?

Thankfully for those of us who struggle, there are steps you can take to help spot change coming and know what to do when it happens.

Three ways to inspire action from your marketing campaigns to prospects and clients

At Man Bites Dog, we often talk about three common types of changes that (should) inspire action. These include pressing financial threats or opportunities, and ‘ticking time bombs’ or clear changes on the horizon such as upcoming legislations or elections. The third kind of change is slower and harder to see coming, so we use the analogy of the frog in the pan. Gruesomely, the story goes that if you drop a frog into a boiling pan of water, it will immediately leap out. But, if you drop a frog into a luke warm pan and slowly raise the temperature, it won’t notice and will be gradually stewed. You can avoid being the frog by keeping a close watch on the news and staying abreast of what’s happening in your industry by speaking with peers and networking regularly.

Regular risk assessments looking at the business through a PESTLE lense (or similar model) will also help to identify even the most unlikely eventualities and help you to plan for them. Have you ever considered what you would do if one of your spokespeople became embroiled in a sex-scandal, your products exploded, your databases hacked, or your offices were the subject of a terrorist attack?

When the worst does happen, it’s important to be prepared and to react in a logical and measured way. Flexibility is key as your planned response may not be possible and sometimes bringing in a third party to help formulate your thinking might be the best approach. We’re working with several clients at the moment on both internal and external communications projects around Brexit – quantifying what the impact is on their businesses and their clients’, as well as codifying how to talk about this.

Ultimately, change can be scary, but much like my horror film binge, the only way to reap the rewards is riding through the terror and getting to the other side.  

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