Communicating Bad News at Work – Part 1

Bad news is rife in the world of business and employment today. It’s a fact of life as companies struggle to get to grips with the subdued economy. If you’re managing or supervising staff, there’s a fair chance you’ll find yourself delivering unsavoury news to your team at one point or another, and how you choose to communicate that news can make a huge difference.”No one ever wants to receive bad news, and no one wants to communicate it either,” says business communications specialist Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. “It is a huge communication challenge that requires great care, especially if the news is upsetting rather than merely inconvenient.”Breaking such news can be a nerve racking and difficult experience for even the most seasoned business communicator, but if you find yourself passing on bad tidings at work consider following some of these tips to help ease the pain:

Use multiple channels: don’t just focus on e-mail. E-mail tends to be a cold and sterile medium, unfeeling and stark. While e-mail may well be the most efficient communication tool, you should try to augment it with other, more personal channels of communication. Pick up the phone, arrange a person-to-person meetings or organise an online meetings or video conference to add a more personal and caring element to the message.

Keep people updated: there’s nothing worse than dropping a bombshell of an announcement and then clamming up. Keep the information flowing, provide frequent updates and volunteer additional information as it becomes available. People tend to take bad news on-board gradually, but once the central message sinks in they’ll be looking for more information. Be sure to provide it if you can.

Don’t try to hide it: shielding people from bad news by concealing it is always a bad move. When the inevitable happens and the news leaks out, the fallout will be far worse. Be open, honest and up front about the reality of the situation.

Don’t delay: sitting on the fence isn’t a particularly clever strategy when it comes to delivering bad news. When the news does break the fact that you knew about it for some time before passing it on will erode trust and raise suspicion about your motives. The trust of your team is hard won and crucial to your success… don’t jeopardise it.

Be professional: use appropriate language tailored to your audience, and always be professional. Take particular care before deciding to use emoticons like frowning faces and slang terms.

Temper the message: if you can do so legitimately, try and include a snippet of good news to soften the blow. Downsizing a department is very bad news for some, of course, but if it ultimately saves people’s jobs and makes the company more viable that’s good.

Don’t gloss over the negatives: while highlighting a positive aspect or outcome is a good thing, don’t attempt to disguise the negative message with positive language and corporate “spin” for the sake of it. Bad news doesn’t become any sweeter with a saccharine veneer.

Don’t forget to look out for part two of this article for more tips to help you deliver bad news more effectively.(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing at Work newsletter)

PR Is Not Just About Press Releases: The Art Of Using Twitter To Spread The News About Your Business

More and more businesses are seeing the value of Twitter as a means of sharing their news updates. Twitter hasn’t replaced the traditional methods of PR, nor should it. Traditional methods like press releases, regular blog posts, on and offline media coverage all still channels businesses need to, and should use.If it’s a wise business owner however, you realise the value of adding Twitter to a corporate PR strategy, and implement it well.When it comes to instant delivery of news worthy content, there really is nothing to match Twitter.Since its launch in 2006 Twitter has evolved from a cool and groovy social media platform of bit sized banter into a multimedia force to be reckoned with. And the power of Twitter is going to increase of the coming year. You watch and see, then remember where you heard it first.For an example of how powerful it is, spend some time watching how Sky news, BBC news, and CNN use Twitter. These big media giants have turned corporate Twitter accounts into their own branded virtual journalist – their media correspondent at the scene – delivering news and two way communications, as it happens. We can all learn some valuable lessons from them too.As small businesses, we may share content on a much smaller scale, but, the principle is exactly the same. Twitter gives us a way to get information, news and content out, very quickly, to a massive audience.Current statistics suggest Twitter logs up over 400 million world-wide tweets per day, all being written, tweeted and re-tweeted by over 500 million avid Twitterers, and yes that is the official term for them!.Most people access their twitter accounts via mobile phones or tablets these days, so the potential for reaching people is increased just by the nature of user behaviour; they are literally logged on morning, noon and night. Statistics recorded give mobile devices 60% of the Twitter activity. It’s hardly surprising, it is such a quick, fast and easy platform to use, its perfect for mobile technology.Businesses who understand content marketing and implement it within social media already know that most people now follow businesses using these platforms. And the number of people engaging with commerce on social media just keeps growing. We’re preaching to the converted here, you know how important content is for SEO rankings and online lead generation. Think about all this in terms of news and PR though.Back to Twitter. Users are using Twitter as a means of following People, Organisations and businesses and being updated, real time, on their news. They are using it to keep their fingers on the pulse of trends, opinion and breaking developments in every field of interest.You can do exactly the same for your business with Twitter. Start off with the followers you have and watch the number grow and your news spread as you approach this with the mind of a true journalist.How to turn Twitter into your own ‘news correspondent at the scene’Copy the big boys – spend some time watching when and how the big news channels Tweet, and copy them. It’s a tried and tested news spreading formula which works so why attempt to reinvent the wheel?Make sure all your content is Twitter friendly. (If you don’t have Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ as share options on your content then shame on you; take a wrap on the knuckles and lose 300 house points!)Add a cool Twitter stream to your website news page or homepage too. Link your Facebook and Twitter together. Merge all your communications channels with Twitter so you can tweet about anything and everything you need to.Use hashtags and keywords well, wisely and properly. Come up with your own hash tag if it serves a better purpose. But be careful not to get too overbearing with them, no one like a hash tag kleptomaniac. Add tiny URLs to images and content on your website or to links to more information – If you think like a journalist, act like a journalist, your information will be treated like news.Set yourself up on Tweetdeck, it will make life simpler and easier – especially when you start getting responses – and this is particularly important if you have more than one Twitter account.We’re not saying the age of the email newsletter, blog or the press release is dead. All we’re suggesting is that you add Twitter, in a clever journalistic way, to your content creating mix.