Delivering bad news is tough in any business. Whether it’s having to tell your vendors that you can no longer retain their services or informing an employee that he is being made redundant, or shutting down a project, often the “messenger” tasked with delivering the final blow would go to great lengths to delay or avoid the situation due to fear of confrontation, turning a bad situation into an even worse one.
Let’s face it – nobody wants to hear bad news. Disappointment, frustration and even anger come to mind. It’s certainly no mean feat when it comes to reconciling and managing orders from upper management with the interests of employees, vendors and clients.
So how can we avoid shooting the messenger? We share some tips on how you can deliver bad news (someone’s got to do it!) with grace and tact.
Make sure that you’re familiar with every piece of information before speaking to your target recipient (employee, colleague, client). More specifically, you need to understand the reasons why, who are the parties involved, and any other considerations in the lead up to the final decision. Don’t hesitate to ask for more information before delivering the bad news.
Time and Place
When you deliver bad news, be sure to do it in a private setting and at a time when he can hear the bad news. If it’s not urgent, don’t approach the person at a stressful time in the middle of a project. Be mindful of the setting, and switch off your phone and email alerts – avoid interruptions at all cost to put the person at ease.
Create a Buffer
Before communicating any bad news, always start with a buffer to reduce the shock or pain. An effective buffer helps the recipient to keep reading or listening, and essentially provides a smooth transition to the bad news proper.
- State the best news first
- Compliment the recipient
- Thank the recipient for his past contributions
- Listen to what the recipient has to say (shared viewpoint)
- State key facts of the case
- Express empathy (show concern)
People are more receptive to listening and accepting bad news when it’s delivered thoughtfully, sincerely and confidently. Body language is key. Make sure your body language conveys the right message in the right way and is in line with what you’re saying. Some examples of non-verbal cues include avoiding eye contact and fidgeting. These are sure to send the wrong signals. Also, do not sugarcoat and beat around the bush. Be direct and tactful, and most of all be kind.
No Time for Jokes
When bad news is being delivered, be considerate of the recipient’s feelings. Do not joke around as this may come across as being rude and insincere. While you may want to lighten the mood and reduce the impact of the news, always be respectful and sensitive.
Explain the Why’s
Research shows that people are more willing to accept bad news if they believe the decision-making process was reasonable. Therefore, provide them with ample reasons as to why the bad news is necessary and give them details about the decision-making process.
Show you Care
After delivering the news and explaining all the necessary information, give the individual some space to absorb the information and be ready to listen to his concerns. Ask him how he’s feeling. Do your best to be understanding and answer any questions as best as possible.
When closing, do it in a way that promotes goodwill and helps the individual or team move forward. You should provide your support and let them know you’re there for them. Instead of focusing on the “can’ts”, focus on the “cans”. Go a step further and suggest a compromise or alternative option based on what the individual wanted in the first place.
Posted by Chloe Tan, CorpMedia
We’ve found there are six main reasons why PR practitioners and businesses avoid using images as part of their communications.
We thought we’d suggest solutions to these problems so you can start creating more vibrantly eye-catching and interesting content.
“Our product is boring. I don’t think it would be a good subject for an interesting picture.”
All the more reason you should use creative images to enliven your communications. Think of Innocent Drinks. Their product is not unique, but their social media content is awash with images that are unrelated to their product but fit with the quirky image they’re trying to give their brand’s personality.
However, if you don’t think this would work for your brand then you should consider thinking about how you can create an emotive or humorous image in some way connected to your product. Look at this humorous example for Webroot Internet Security.
Another tip is to write down your headline. What first comes to your mind when you read it? Have you used a metaphor? It’s often easier to match a picture to a headline than the whole story.
“Professional photographers are too expensive; I can’t afford to pay for photographs to accompany every press release I send out.”
Professional photographers might not be as expensive as you think. If you plan wisely, you can get a lot for your money.
Rather than hiring a photographer on an individual campaign basis, consider making a list of all the campaign activities you will have in upcoming months so you can think about the images you might like to accompany your documents.
It is much cheaper to hire a photographer for a whole day and take a wide range of shots to build your photo library. This collection of photographs can then be shared with your whole team so they can have easy access to photographs when they’re creating documents and presentations.
“We’re a small company we can’t afford fancy digital cameras, never mind a photographer.”
Don’t underestimate the power of your smartphone or tablet. The number of megapixels on these devices is equivalent to the digital cameras people were investing in only a few years ago. Also the quality of apps, such as Instagram, is continually improving.
Though the images these devices produce might not be of high enough quality for printed materials, they can certainly be used across social media and in blog posts.
“I take terrible photographs; they really wouldn’t be publishable.”
There are two websites worth checking out if you would like to improve your photography.
Writer and designer Adam Dachis has put together a comprehensive guide on Lifehacker that includes a number of lessons for use with digital cameras.
Expert Photography provides a thorough Beginner’s Guide to Photography and more than 250 other articles to help you improve your skills whether you are shooting with a camera or a phone. It’s definitely worth a read.
“I can never get my photographs the way I like them. I would have to buy expensive and complicated editing software or pay someone to edit them for me.”
Photoshop is the undisputed king of photo editing. However, it’s notoriously complicated and expensive. If you don’t want to fork out a whole heap of cash there are great free alternatives.
According to PCMag.com: “Paint.net lives in an interesting space between very basic image manipulation applications like Microsoft Paint and robust big guys like Photoshop.”
Gimp.org is a credible competitor to Photoshop, and it’s free. You can combine it with Photoshop plug-ins should you feel the package is not extensive enough. Read Brighthub.com’s review for details.
If you’d still rather use Photoshop but don’t want to pay for the full package, try Photoshop Elements. It’s a basic version of the full package at a fraction of the price.
“I am unsure of copyright laws so I would rather avoid using other people’s images.”
The Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 is notoriously complicated and extends to more than 300 sections. Therefore, you should avoid using other people’s photographs unless you are absolutely certain you are not infringing any copyrights.
When you need an image in a hurry, it’s tempting to jump onto Google Images, do a few searches, and see what catches your eye. Of course, many images will be copyrighted. To find images you can freely use, use the advanced search and tick the use rights option that says, “free to use or share, even commercially.” Even then, please credit the original photographer.
The same applies with Flickr, the world’s largest photo-sharing site. Go to the advanced search and select “Creative Commons: find content to use commercially.”
“I find the photographs on these online stock sites are often very cheesy.”
Generally, it’s worth paying for stock photography, although it’s true you have to look hard to find shots that aren’t bland, generic, or cheesy.
There’s a knack to searching on these sites. Try to think of conceptual search terms that go beyond the obvious. You might, for instance, look for metaphors from nature or perhaps the arts.
As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. Take a look at sites such as Alamy, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, and 123RF, and find the cost/quality ratio you are comfortable with. If you want to buy photos and use them without restrictions, make sure you search for “royalty free.”
So, these are just some solutions. What do you think? Perhaps you have some of your own tricks to add. Please let us know in the comments below.
Just like a marriage proposal, sometimes, we get overexcited about the news and just want to shout it out to the world – well, to anyone within earshot anyway. We just can’t contain ourselves. This also holds true for news connected to our business. Some of us start to envision dollar signs and products flying off the shelves almost immediately!
However, there is something to be said about restraint when it comes to sharing news with your public. Sometimes, clients wait too long to respond to crisis situations or take advantage of stories in the news they could use to help tell their own story. Waiting too long can mean a missed opportunity or, in some cases, a damaged reputation. Then, there’s the flip side: speaking before you’re ready. This can be dangerous.
Case in point: remember the headlines that appeared immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law? The Associated Press, in a hurry to be the first to carry the news, citing several media organizations, reported incorrectly that the law’s central provision had been struck down. As a result, President Obama initially thought that the mandate had been struck down. According to MSNBC, “For about 40 seconds, the President believed that his landmark, legacy defining legislative accomplishment had been gutted.”
In the end, the Associated Press reported that one outlet did issue an apology, admitting that it had not waited to report on the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate. As PR professionals, we are the first responders that journalists often turn to for sources and sound bytes and it is our job to assist in a timely manner. More importantly, in today’s fast-paced media landscape, we must always be sure to present factual and accurate information to best serve our clients and the public.
Your news item could be something as amazing as getting an endorsement from the Queen, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have to know when the best time is to share something such breaking news.
Right Time, Right Place
There are many obvious reasons as to when the right time is to break your news, one being that you are contractually bound to stay zipped until you get the green light to move. Or you find yourself at the risk of a lawsuit. Think, for example, about a merger between two companies – talking about it before the plans are officially finalized may just impact the deal in a negative way and add to uncertainty in the market. Any media plans, including campaigns to be rolled out will also suffer.
But that’s not the only reason to keep quiet about big news. Everything has a right time and place, and it takes careful planning and consideration to announce it. If done poorly, your big news could fall on deaf ears, and you’ll have to work twice as hard to spread the news or worse still, undo the damage.
Do your research and figure out the best time to use social media and when to send emails out. People read emails or browse through Facebook at specific peak times, and if you don’t catch your target audience at the right time, they are likely to miss your news entirely.
Be aware of what’s going on around you and in the news before you release that all important news. If you wake up to a huge earthquake that’s just struck the region, for sure, all the media channels would devote their time and space to report on the catastrophe for days to come. So be sensitive. Perhaps this is not the best time to issue that press release or make an announcement. The last thing anyone wants to think about in such circumstance is some company telling them to get excited about their latest acquisition.
How much research do you do before sending out a message?
The game of PR and social media isn’t one for slow minded or slow acting individuals. A 24-7 news cycle and the pace of the digital marketplace make it essential to perform quickly. It is important to stop, take a breath and survey the landscape before you send out that hastily written press release or tweet.
And, before you respond to viral situations or crisis circumstances, always allow yourself and your team a window of time to plan before launching your response. Make sure you know all the facts before you issue a public comment. Comments made on Facebook, Twitter and other social media make it very easy to say things that shouldn’t be said in public. So, beware.
While ‘Social Media and PR’ continues to rank highly in search engine terms (223 million according to Google, if you really wish to know), ‘Content Curation and PR’ is rapidly catching up, demonstrating that this ancient concept (for so it is, given that ‘Curators’ have been around since the dawn of history) is fast gaining credibility among PR professionals. However, there is still a certain degree of confusion between curation and aggregation.
In recent weeks, a number of our clients have been approached by web developers offering them a solution which, in their words, would, ‘greatly enhance SEO, bringing more visitors to your web site’.
When we investigated these ‘solutions’ they were nothing more than automated news aggregators – precisely the sort of tools that tend to be mismanaged and end up creating more trouble than they are worth. These aggregators work without intelligent human interaction and it is the addition of intelligence that makes content curation such an effective tool, not only in terms of searching for appropriate sources, but also adding comments and pertinent information to curated items.
Digital content curation is going to be the battleground between classic PR and Online marketing specialists, such as web designers and SEO professionals. Traditional print-based PR is already on the wane. This is symptomatic of what is happening to conventional journalism, which is morphing into a more anarchical profession where the distinction between bloggers and true journalists is blurred, certainly from an audience perspective.
While I am not saying that pushing articles to the press is the only tool at the disposal of PR professionals, it’s always been a key ingredient of their trade, certainly in the B2B sector. Thus the disappearance of this weapon from their traditional armoury is bound to create some shockwaves and a rethink of what PR is for.
Content curation will greatly accelerate this process and basic curation tools such as Scoop.it, Trap.it, Paper.li etc, can already be easily integrated by customers and PR professional alike, with reasonably satisfactory results for very basic interactions. In the instance of more advanced technology platforms (e.g. Curata), the level of sophistication in terms of sourcing, sorting and sharing is such that if these systems are set up correctly they are able to learn, making qualitative assessments on specific topics. The end result is tailor-made content for each visitor to the customer’s site, contributing greatly to SEO and brand loyalty and, therefore, prospective additional business.
So, gazing at my crystal ball I can see that future PR will be more about assessing, evaluating and sharing existing content than creating new material, as well as learning new skills and introducing new experts, preferably young and creative talents with a strong digital background, or partnerships. It will be those PR consultants that can easily adapt to this new paradigm who will end up winning, and there will be many casualties, large and small, on the road to success.
Posted by, Maurizio Fantato, a member of the Evoke Network.
Living under the spotlight of professional sports means a crisis can result from the mere accusation of wrongdoing and snowball under public scrutiny.
The 2000 Olympics was infamous for the Marion Jones doping scandal. It cast a shadow on the American athlete but also impacted other honest performances. There should have been a more effective system in place to deal with these performance enhancing, over-ambitious athletes.
Twelve years on, the London Olympics 2012 has proven to be no different. Among the gold medals, tears and record-breaking moments, the Games was still tainted by scandal. From doping, to racist tweets, to badminton players intentionally throwing a match, the 2012 Olympics attracted its fair share.
Greek triple-jumper Paraskevi “Voula” Papachristou was expelled from her country’s Olympic team for a Tweet perceived as racist. Eight badminton players were kicked out the games, accused of “not using one’s best efforts to win” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.” And young swimmers from China and USA were subject to doping insinuations just for winning gold.
When it comes to sport, no professional athlete is immune to the need for crisis communications planning. Point of reference? Tiger Woods springs to mind almost immediately! No matter how perfect everything may seem on the surface, our celebrity-obsessed public is always looking for news (good or bad), and the media is only too happy to oblige. Scandal always makes front-page news – well most of the time!.
WHEN CRISIS HITS
When crisis hits an athlete, his world is turned upside down and there little time to waste. Living in 24-hour news cycle age can only mean one thing – danger! A crisis can snowball into a full-blown scandal, ruin careers and result in loss of sponsorship dollars overnight. When it happens, the athlete needs to be sure that he has a team in place that’s capable of moving fast enough to take control of the situation. And who’re the people who should make up the team? The agent, lawyer and strategic PR professionals, among others (coach, team manager) should all get on board and collectively work together to diffuse the situation and limit the damage.
The agent is usually the first “port of call.” He is responsible for galvanizing the troops to start damage control immediately and protect his client’s interests. The lawyer will assess the legal implications, and the PR professional and his team will get the athlete ready to face the media.
Preparing the athlete to face the cameras, developing his message, laying out a strategy for communicating with the media, the fans and sponsors, and giving the athlete the confidence he needs to do it all effectively is where the strategic communications team delivers the goods.
While you’d like to think some athletes are an exception, it is important to bear in mind that every professional athlete needs a crisis plan. While it takes the dream team to determine the plan of attack, it is the responsibility of the PR team to ensure there is a clear procedure and protocol in place to deal with any crisis – on the track or off the track.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to prepare an athlete for crisis before it hits.
Anticipate and Assess: In order to anticipate issues that may arise down the road, you have to know what you’re working with. And while your clients may not want reveal everything’s that’s inside their closet, it’s critical to help them understand that the team should know about anything that could come back to haunt them. This way, the team will never be caught off guard and can respond better if crisis hits.
Create an Action Plan: While you may not always be able to anticipate a specific crisis, you can clearly define what the procedures and protocol will be if and when a situation arises: the lines of communication must be clear; you need to determine who the designated spokespersons(s) will be; how you will communicate with the media (i.e. press release, press conference, which media outlet(s) will get the story first, etc).
Relationship Matters. Working with your client to build relationships with the media, the public, and their fan base from the get-go will help tremendously when reputation or sponsorship damaging issues confront an athlete. People tend to be more compassionate and forgiving when the person in question is someone they like or in the media’s case, someone they’ve built a working relationship with.
PREPARE, PLAN, EXECUTE
In this 24-hour news cycle we live in, and with the viral power of social media, response time is critical. This is when the pre-planned procedures and protocol come into effect. If it’s been clearly outlined, the athlete knows exactly who to call when crisis occurs, and with his team in place, he is ready to go.
Take Responsibility: The athlete needs to own up to his responsibility, be accountable for his actions and be sincere. The message must be consistent, and he must come across as being human, believable and real.
Be Direct: Don’t try and “spin” the story – it can get out of control. And the public is not that naïve and certainly not easily manipulated. So stick to the story, and don’t say more than what you need to.
Be Honest: Encourage your client to be as honest as possible – no matter how painful. He will have a much better chance of getting the public and sponsors to stand by him.
Sometimes less is more, especially in a crisis situation. Once the athlete has acknowledged the crisis, taken responsibility for his or her actions, and thanked fans for their support, it’s time to move on. It’s important not to dwell on the subject and get back to talking about what’s important to their fans – the game, their family, their charitable initiatives or an upcoming event. Move on and the fans will too.
Stings, doesn’t it? It is easy to wade into the murky new world of media with high expectations – in reality, very few news stories actually make their way to print. Surely some disappointment is inevitable, yet we may never fully understand the reasons behind rejections from journalists or reporters.
Let’s take a closer look at your pitch. You’ve checked at least three times for grammar mistakes and erroneous figures. Being the professional that you are, you would have already conducted a thorough research on the publication and journalist you are targeting. Your subject line is perfectly succinct as is the core of your pitch. Bravo, well done!
Perhaps the problem lies elsewhere. More often than not, we get so carried away with the delivery that we overlook the story. Top-notch pitching and communication skills do not necessarily render your story newsworthy: Understand the importance of being able to distance yourself from your news content – this allows you to evaluate the story objectively. Are you convinced that it is newsworthy in the first place?
Losing credibility as a reliable provider of news stories can be very damaging and deprive you of future opportunities. Rid yourself of the nagging fear that journalists who turned you down might just be right – make sure that your next attempt at a press release or a media pitch incorporates the following elements of a newsworthy media story!
“BANG!” or “…bang?”
Assess the potential impact of your story. Will your content affect everyone – or does it lead to a dramatic change in the lives of a niche audience of any type? Quite naturally, the editor will decline to publish your story if it is of little importance or has nothing to do with the vast majority of readers.
Out with the Old
News has to be, well, new. Keep your content as current as possible instead of dredging up dated information desperately in hopes of getting some press coverage. Has anything refreshingly novel or unexpected happened recently? That may be a good place to start.
Timeliness is of the essence. With the ready availability of sources these days, members of the public are hungry for information and demand instant gratification. Don’t hinder your chances of getting media coverage by delaying your press release.
Near and Dear – Proximity is Key
Will your audience relate to your story with ease? Presenting happenings that are taking place here is more likely to captivate the attention of those who share the same context in which your story unfolds. The opposite applies as well – people will be less interested to know about the unravelling of events that occurs across geographical borders.
The Art of Self Promotion
One basic rule is to avoid blatantly promotional content. Feeling sandwiched between your client and the media is an experience deeply shared by many others in the PR industry; on the other hand, you may wish to utilize the quotes within your story wisely such that it offers ample opportunities for your client’s company to shine.
Ultimately, the simplest advice that we can give is to put yourself in the shoes of a journalist or an editor. If you were a representative of the particular publication, would you be interested in publicizing the story you’re about to release? If the answer is no, embark on a second, or even a third attempt, to craft a story pitch or press release that can spark interest among the public.
A keen judgment of newsworthiness can be honed with time and practice. You can develop an instinct for newsworthy stories through regular observation of what trade publications, relevant magazines and newspapers consider as news. Sieving through countless possibilities to arrive at the news story with the most potential (that best serves the interests of your client!) is part and parcel of excelling in the PR industry.
By Cho Yi Ting, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services