The Kramden Effect

The loss of the late Senator Kennedy’s seat to the Republicans seems to have left more than a few players temporarily stunned, including the leaders of most pharmaceutical companies (“Health Care Firms Scramble to Assess Shift,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2010).  No one can confidently predict what this Massachusetts senate result will mean for health reform, but the disarray in the industry reminds us again of the crucial role played by scenario planning in corporate communications.  While Coakley’s defeat might have seemed far-fetched a month ago, a prudent observer could have suggested that companies needed to script a response to a potential Republican victory.  The collective Gleasonesque “hmna, hmna, hmna” could have been avoided without leaving the industry trapped into supporting or opposing the ultimate outcome.  There are surely many twists and turns to come in this reform effort.  The communications function needs to follow that bouncing ball very closely.

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