Businesses need to pivot to communication

Lisa Ann Joseph, founder of Reputation Management Caribbean. -
Lisa Ann Joseph, founder of Reputation Management Caribbean. -


Pivot has become the latest buzz word. Under the circumstances we now face, it is no wonder that the word has become key in many a conversation in how to manage and survive.

But how many of us understand what pivot really means? Just recently, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley offered it as a rally cry to the Caribbean. Speaking at the recent inaugural Pivot Event hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank, she urged Caribbean people to find their cultural confidence and creativity so that the region can secure its place as a world leader in technology and innovation.

In essence, she was encouraging us as a united Caribbean front to present ourselves more than the traditional image of sun, beach and fun. While these are integral as many islands depend on tourism revenue for survival, Mottley was encouraging us to take a bold step in another direction.

Regardless of the direction taken – as a region or individually – a most critical element of any pivot action is communications. But I must pause here. Before reaching to that point of my discussion, let’s try to unpack what pivot really means.

Going through the dictionaries, pivot is a doing word – turning on a shaft or pin. Merriam-Webster also defines it as a basketball move: “the action of stepping with one foot while keeping the other foot at its point of contact with the floor.” I like this definition best as it basically describes what pivot in business means – moving forward, but keeping one foot on the ground for balance.

A recent article posted on offered this definition: “A pivot is usually intended to help a business recover from a tough period, or survive after experiencing new competition or other factors that make the original business model unsustainable.” Twitter, for example, became successful because of a pivot. It started as Odeo, a platform for podcasts. It couldn’t compete when Apple launched iTunes podcasting. So Odeo’s co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, along with Odeo employee Jack Dorsey, created Twitter from scratch.

The Founder Institute looks at pivot from the perspective of the basketballer – with one foot on the ground, a company can launch into doing something different without changing its whole game plan. “Oftentimes, a company only has one important problem that needs to be addressed, and only requires one aspect of the company to changed.”

Based on these two definitions, I agree that it’s never too late to stop, think and make changes – or pivot. It’s a wonderful life gem to hold on to. From here, I return to a communicator’s perspective as pivoting also requires a connection – an explanation to how this new action will affect stakeholders, both internal and external. One cannot assume that folks will understand a company’s next move without alerting them to it.

The consequences of covid19 have made a lot of business owners rethink how they operate. But pivoting may not necessarily mean changing products or services; it may sometimes mean changing the way you communicate to meet changing needs.

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Reviewing the communication game plan should be a regular feature in a business’ operations. However, if this was not done before, it is not too late to plan and develop a seamless, deeper connection with stakeholders. Believe it or not, that connection is appreciated.

Messaging can be individually constructed and deeply thought out for respective clients. If you are a communicator reading this, you should consider the client’s perspective more than what you think their point of view should be. In other words, start your planning process by “thinking from the outside in.” Here are some questions to consider:

• Are you reaching your audiences in the way they want to be reached?

• What are their preferred ways to connect?

• What are the communication channels available to you?

• Are you utilising them at full capacity?

Also consider that reaching stakeholders does not necessarily mean the exclusive use of social media as the immediate platform to disseminate information. Not all information needs to go that route. Sometimes, the audience may be offline. Traditional media – newspaper, TV, and radio – continue to be a viable option when combined with elements in the digital space. The objective is to ensure the correct messaging reaches as many people as frequently as possible rather than focus on one platform.

Placing exclusive attention on the client is key as this strengthens the business relationship. For example, it may be convenient to send an e-mail blast or use social media to ensure you stay top of mind. But a one-on-one Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting or even a traditional telephone call may be better to strengthen your connection.

Nevertheless, whether via telephone, e-mail, or online platforms, the conversation requires planning. Before typing or taking up the phone, consider what needs to be said. According to a 2019 report in UK Guardian, the information age has changed the general attention span: “… researchers at the Technical University of Denmark suggest the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public…the study shows people now have more things to focus on – but often focus on things for short periods of time,” the article said.

Being precise, without being clinical or devoid of emotion, is the key. One has to be selective in what needs to be said. Creativity in the messaging can strengthen the relationship between a business and its clients. That’s also necessary when the pivot takes place.

Lisa Ann Joseph is the managing director of Reputation Management Caribbean.


"Businesses need to pivot to communication"

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