Bill Huey
Bill Huey

One of the many consequences of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine is a poisonous effect on business and financial relationships.

Scores of businesses have suspended or pulled out of Russia, Russian products have been banned, and access to capital has been cut off. Putin has threatened to arrest U.S. executives who ”defy” the government, while distrust and ill will are spreading everywhere.

These developments have communications implications for everything from investor relations, to ESG stakeholders, to marketing communications and even employee communications.

Putin has shown the world what happens when an authoritarian strongman with a lock on his country spins out past the limits of acceptable behavior.

Corporations worldwide will have to re-calibrate their risk profiles, and many will simply not take the chance of doing business with Russia in particular or totalitarian regimes in general.

That is what is making Chinese president XI Jinping as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Nations who want trade and access to capital must tread carefully between geopolitical goals and economics.

Even as I write this, a Wall Street analyst firm has slammed China internet stocks as “uninvestable” for the next six to twelve months, largely because of a Chinese government clampdown on their operations.

Another analyst declared on CNBC that “deglobalization is the best bet for the next five to ten years.” Add Putin’s aggression to the disruption already caused by Covid, and you have a world in enormous turmoil and transition.

If you are a communicator in a multinational corporation or even a domestic corporation with international manufacturing and sourcing, take a hard look at everything you are doing and develop new communication strategies to address change, disruption, and emerging issues.

Remember the old adage that “everything communicates.” If your company is offshoring in or sourcing from a country with an authoritarian regime, try to influence at least a review of current policies and practices (Are you listening, Apple?).

If you are regularly hosting receptions that serve vodka, make sure it’s Polish. Caviar? Nyet, unless it’s American paddlefish. Leave no stone unturned, because the one you overlook may be the one that rises up and smacks you in the face.

The next few years are not likely to be easy, as repercussions of Putin’s reckless invasion reverberate around the world. As usual, the game will be won by those who are prepared and proactive about communications.


Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications and the author of Carbon Man (Kindle, 2010).