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12 ways to deliver bad news to the media or public

Delivering bad news to employees, stakeholders or the media is one of the toughest things to do. While no one wants to be the bearer of bad news, it is still a task that must be done from time to time.

Below, are 12 tips to help prepare you for the tough job of delivering the bad news.

  1. Follow the CAP concern formula

C stands for concern: how will you show the people involved that you care about them? A is for action: how will you carry this out? And P for perspective: what will this decision lead to in the future?

  1. Be the first to break the bad news

12 ways to deliver bad news to the media or public

Be early and be authentic. To mitigate additional issues, be upfront with customers and media and let them hear the news from you, rather than a third-party source.

Let them know what you plan to do to solve the problem or at least what steps you plan to take. Even if you have not sorted out all of the details, communicate what you can, when you can.

  1. Just be plain honest

No one likes to give bad news in any circumstance.  One valuable tip is to always be upfront and honest about the news.

Do not skirt the topic and try to give the recipient false hope. It is better to let them know the truth and then assure them that you will do everything you can to work with them through the issue. Take the same approach too with the media.

  1. Context matters

12 ways to deliver bad news to the media or public

The bad news content and the context are equally important. It is much easier for us to understand things when they are accompanied by the context and the thought process behind them. Be prepared to share the reasons why the decision came about and that there was ample time given to arrive at that conclusion.

  1. Express empathy

Understand how the recipient of the bad news is going to feel and how they are likely to think about the message you’re delivering. Anticipate their emotions and thoughts so you can help them—and yourself—move past the bad news and into ideating solutions and next steps together.

  1. Remain calm and remember, it will pass

No one likes to deliver negative news, and the saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger” has very serious roots. But when reality hits and it’s time to bring the bad news, just remember that 99% of the time, life goes on. It is only your job to help deliver the information in a calm and orderly manner.

Time heals all, and whatever the situation at hand is, eventually it will pass.

  1. Don’t sugarcoat It

Most people can see right through an attempt to overly explain or downplay a piece of bad news. It is best to be completely straightforward, short and to the point. Then leave time for questions or clarification.

That’s not to say that you can’t do a brief set-up or include some reassurances, but it’s best to break the news as honestly and succinctly as possible, then discuss.

  1. Own the situation

Every crisis is an opportunity if handled properly. The best way to deal with it  is to own it. Give customers, employees, the media or anyone else who might be involved the feeling that the situation is treated with transparency, responsibility and accountability.

Act fast and be forthcoming. Trepidation can lead to disaster, while facing facts and being honest will lead to renewed trust.

  1. Know what you are not going to say

Be crystal clear on what you need to say, and be succinct in how you say it. This also includes being clear on what you don’t want to say (or can’t say). Sometimes more background or detail can help explain, but sometimes it can just confuse the issue unnecessarily.

10. Stick to the facts but be considerate

Ensuring all of the facts are as quantifiable and verifiable as possible and consciously approaching the subject with a considerate or empathetic tone, along with a few suggestions on how to move forward from here, will go a long way toward ensuring the situation is addressed and the potential for a repeat is minimized.

  1. Use the Sandwich technique

Always use the sandwich technique – Start with good news, layer with the difficult message and end with positive realities or a repetition of the first point. Ensure communication is clear, short and consistent, but include positive messages that make the negative announcement more manageable for the reader.

12 Anticipate and prepare for tough questions

Do your homework in advance and be prepared to answer any questions that might arise from the news. Most importantly, always be honest and up front. In our fast-paced, tech-driven world, negative news spreads fast, so it’s better to be honest versus allowing the news to manifest into something larger. Being prepared and honest will help to avoid a bigger public relations crisis.

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