As a small business owner, you’ve likely already learned the importance of communicating good news, such as your brand’s launch, a product release, or a new hire. However, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re about to make an announcement that isn’t quite so exciting. Trust me when I say that it’s just as important to know how to announce bad news effectively.
Choose a capable spokesperson to announce the bad news
Not everyone is good at delivering sensitive announcements, so take time to choose just the right spokesperson. Whoever you choose should be a skilled public speaker and be able to express themselves clearly, even under pressure.
You need someone who can confidently handle media inquiries and press conferences without sounding like they are reading from a script. Ideally, this person would also have experience in public relations or communications and understand how best to handle difficult questions from the media.
Your spokesperson should be trustworthy, with a history of telling the truth and admitting when they are wrong, and should be able to convey emotion and empathy to connect with those impacted by the news on a personal level. Additionally, you should make sure they are highly knowledgeable about your target audience and industry.
When you announce bad news, be direct
When you have bad news to deliver, it’s critical to be direct and clear. You may feel the need to go into detailed explanations, but the truth is that all people really want to hear is what happened, how it happened, and what you plan to do about it.
Don’t beat around the bush or try to soften the blow with flowery language. You don’t have to sugarcoat your message or hide behind fluff — it’s often better if you don’t. If you stick to the facts, your audience will see that you are taking responsibility for what happened, appreciate your candor, and respect you even more for it.
During the announcement, use simple language that everyone can understand. Avoid jargon, buzzwords, or technical terms that can confuse your audience or make your message seem less sincere.
When there is bad news to announce, honesty is the best policy
As you deliver unwelcome information, it’s important to be straightforward and honest with your audience. Even if you cannot disclose all the facts people want, they will appreciate your transparency and honesty as you share the information you can.
Stick to the facts, take responsibility, and give a clear timeline with actions for moving forward. If people are feeling anxious or worried, you will help them feel better by being honest and open. The more transparent you can be with your customers during this time of crisis, the better they will feel about doing business with you again in the future.
Before announcing bad news, make a game plan
Before you announce bad news, always take time to prepare by using the facts of the situation to create your script. Write down everything that needs to be said as succinctly as possible, then take time to write down the things you must be careful to avoid saying.
Craft your announcement with a definite goal in mind. If you lay out a well-defined message and several bullet points to fall back on, you will be more likely to stay on topic.
Once you have your message ready, consider the questions people will likely ask afterward. Prepare responses to each one. As you rehearse, make sure you keep your answers clear and concise. When speaking to a room full of people, it is easy to become sidetracked, but a well-prepared game plan will go a long way to prevent you from rambling or losing focus.
As you announce bad news, be open to feedback
Whenever you have to announce bad news, you will get feedback, as some people will inevitably be upset, confused, and angry. They may feel like you’ve let them down and have questions that need answering before they can move forward.
When you experience this, take a deep breath, listen carefully as people ask questions or express their opinions, and do not allow yourself to become defensive or accusatory. Answer questions as fully and honestly as possible, but avoid giving away confidential information or making promises out of your control. While you might not know all the answers just yet, so long as people feel like they’re getting clear information from someone who cares about them, most of them will be satisfied with your response.
Be ready to be authentic with your customers, employees, and stakeholders in both the good times and the bad. Make sure you have a plan in place before announcing your news, and choose a spokesperson who can share it in a clear, concise, and empathetic way.
Remember, the key to delivering bad news is directness, transparency, and preparation. When you have bad news, lay out a plan to take it to the people who need to hear it and embrace the conversation.
Thomas Mustac is a publicist for Otter PR.