Every organisation will have bad news and how that news is handled can be as crucial to the reputation of the business as shouting about all the good announcements. Redundancies, reductions in service, price rises, poor financial performance can all be managed and if delivered open and honestly whilst in line with the organisation’s values, will help a business’s long-term goodwill.
Most consumers are now very sophisticated and aware of the duplicity which has been deployed in the past to hide bad news. For many people a cover-up is often worse than the actual news – as it demonstrates basic dishonesty. At the same time the public understand that not everything will be perfect all the time. Product recalls, transport disruptions and re-organisations have become a part of modern life.
Plan with your PR agency
The first step is to take some time to approach the problem strategically and then design a plan which addresses the issue proportionally. This is the time to ask some questions such as who is affected? Who should be briefed even if not affected? Will this create commentary from unaffected onlookers?
With your audiences identified, map out what messages help each group and then look at the timing of your delivery. For instance, it is best to brief staff before customers, so the staff can help with customer queries.
The commitment to being transparent must be whole-hearted. There is no need to be evangelical about the truth but showing respect for your stakeholders by being honest will demonstrate sincerity. This means being prepared to accept fair criticism and sometimes unfavourable headlines. It also means you can challenge ill-informed opinions.
Start every briefing with a genuine apology. If there has been a failing by your organisation, express your concern for those affected and convey the fact that you personally as well as your team are taking the matter seriously. Saying sorry takes practise, so choose your words carefully.
One of the best ways to demonstrate that the business is addressing the issue, is to explain in detail how the organisation is providing assistance to any affected customers. Justify the proportionality of these actions and be firm about committing to timings.
Secondly, it is essential to explain how the organisation is taking steps to ensure that the bad news will not re-occur, or if it is likely to happen again, explain how the business will mitigate the concerns of customers.
It is important to continue the dialogue with most, if not, all the audiences. Crucial information should be reiterated, and stakeholders should be kept informed of progress towards a better outcome.
If you have some bad news to share, get in touch and we will guide you through the best procedure.