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
CIO Irene Gomez speaks with Sean Worrall, Managing Director of content.sg
Consumers today are shutting off the traditional world of marketing. They rely on their DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant).
Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way.
Enter Content Marketing!
Q: How would you define content marketing?
I don’t want to define it because I don’t see it as something new or special. Marketing is a business discipline that includes communication, but it’s also a strategic and financial role. What interests me is the evolution of communication media, and changing consumption habits. And what we currently find at the intersection of those two lines are opportunities to lower costs and raise revenue. The opportunities are new, but the principals of communication are not. Brands have been doing content marketing for a long time.
In 1891 Dr. August Oetker, a German pharmacist, developed a baking powder which he branded as Backin. Baking powder had been around for nearly 50 years before that point, but Oetker’s formula had a USP – a long shelf life that made it a more cost effective purchase than other baking powders. Naturally, he patented his formula to get a defensible competitive advantage. But he wasn’t content to simply offer a superior product. He thought long and hard about how he could get housewives to use more of his product. His solution was to pakage it in individual sachets – one sachet activated 500g of flour – and he printed recipe ideas on each one. Sales skyrocketed and he made a fortune (and, incidentally the Oetker-Gruppe is still around today with annual revenues of 11 billion euros).
I love this story because it very neatly encapsulates what I consider to be great content: it is helpful, actionable, strategic, and profit focused. Certainly he built brand loyalty and boosted sales, but he didn’t ostensibly achieve it by shouting about himself and his clever formula. He helped his target audience to fix a personal pain point – “What on earth will I cook for dinner tonight?”
Q: How is content marketing different from other forms of marketing?
It’s not different. A good salesman will share a lot of information about himself, his company, and his product. His aim is to make sure that you feel totally at ease with your decision to buy, and that you will come back and buy from him again. Changes in technology, media, and consumption now make it possible to have that kind of dialogue with all your customers, regardless of the business sector you operate in.
Q: Why is it important to businesses, big or small?
It’s a productivity thing. It offers the potential to reduce the cost of sales line in the P&L. Every business leader wants to raise marginal revenue and reduce marginal costs. Effective content marketing differentiates you from your competitors at the discovery phase, and drives your prospects more quickly down the purchase pathway. It’s a cost effective way to sell with confidence, and respect for your audience.
Q: What do you think is the biggest content marketing mistake?
Have you ever read or viewed branded content that makes you go: “So what?”
That’s the biggest mistake that some players are making today. Content should be relevant, sincere, and useful. I have no problem with content that is fun or quirky, but it has to be anchored to the goals of customer acquisition and retention. If your aim is to build brand affinity, then help me to understand what is distinctive and helpful about your brand. Pictures of cute kids and cats interacting with your logo don’t say anything useful. I’m exaggerating for effect there, but the key message is: don’t conflate the idea of content marketing with social media – one is a discipline, the other is a channel.
I think some B2B marketers are managing content very well, and they are getting better all the time. I feel that this is because they have a better foundation to build on. They already understand the complex jigsaw puzzle of information flow that’s needed to win a major client for (say) a multi-million dollar enterprise technology investment. B2C players can learn a lot from B2B.
Q: Creating and maintaining a successful content marketing strategy is hard work. Can you share some tips on creating an effective strategy?
I’m glad you acknowledged that it is hard work. My top tip would be to recognise that, and not to be tempted to simply throw money at the problem. It needs a collaborative commitment of time.
Next, draw a visual map of your customer’s journey and try to capture his state of mind at each step along the way. I find it helpful to do this as a role-play exercise because, if you verbalise the questions and answers, your content will be more specific and helpful. By comparison if you simply write down a generic topic like “trust”, you won’t get very far. If you’re an investment manager, I want to know how you think, and you’ll be around for the long term. If you’re selling curry puffs, I don’t care much about that – I want to know that your kitchen is clean and you use good ingredients!
Finally, encourage open collaboration from all around the organisation, and create a mechanism for people to submit suggestions. With my own clients, I’m evangelical about this. What I love most is when I get an email from a staff member I haven’t met before (e.g. from the customer call centre) and they say something like: “This could be stupid, but I’ve had an idea. I don’t know if you can use it, but…”, and they typically go on to describe a very interesting insight or experience. It is never stupid or a waste of time because that process often leads to great pieces of content.
Q: How do you see content marketing changing over the next 5 years?
Change is constant but I don’t think the next 5 years will be quite as disruptive as the previous 10 years. That’s not to say that there won’t be winners and losers – there will be. There are still agencies and clients who haven’t fully gotten to grips with digital media, and traditional media owners who haven’t figured out their response. But it’s not the same existential crisis as before.
There’s now a whole generation of tech-savvy marketers moving into senior positions, and many of the old old-timers have shifted up the learning curve too. There’s a foundation of knowledge and experience now, and that makes life-long learning and adaptation easier.
On the client side I think we’ll see some reconfiguring of marketing departments. We’ll obviously see a bigger role for writers, and there will be more in-house writers than we’ve seen before. But I tend to think they will come from the journalistic tradition, rather than the creative agency copywriting one: business-literate researchers, who know how to tell a story. PR and strategic comms people already have those skills, so I think they will take more of a leadership role. And we’ll see more B2B marketers crossing over into B2C (but I feel that will be a one-way street).
Overall, I think we’ll start to see brands communicating with more substance, and less fluff: a more sincere dialogue with customers that will redefine our notions of ‘image’.
Sean Worrall is a corporate storyteller and the founder of content.sg, a marketing services firm with a focus on customer purchase and retention pathways. A former business consultant and trainer, Sean was the MD of an international advertising agency before establishing his own practice. He is a naturalised Singapore citizen and has an MBA from Warwick Business School.
When I first started working in this office 3 months ago, I barely understood what the term “public relations” meant. I had no background in communications and only had a slight idea it involved writing – eg, press releases and articles. I knew that unlike advertising, public relations isn’t “selling” anything.
So what is PR, exactly? According to Wikipedia, it is “the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public”. Essentially, public relations is a management tool – for building credibility and allowing companies to evaluate public attitudes, identifying the public’s interest or concern. In times of crisis, PR is used to explain, defend, promote or reveal corporate policies to specific audiences so that these audiences can fully understand what the organisation has to say.
With the internet today, just like everything else – public relations is constantly evolving. Traditional media is being replaced in favour of social media, and why not? It really is having the world at your fingertips, provided your mobile data plan allows for it.
Advertising and public relations are both forms of communications. But there are several key differences between them.
|The company pays for ad space and time.||Coverage in media is not paid for.|
|Complete control of what goes into the ad.||Little or no control over your information is presented, if the media decides to use your info at all.|
|Since you pay for the space, you can run your ads over and over for as long as your budget allows.||You can only submit a press release about a new product/news conference once.|
|These days, consumers know when they’re reading an advertisement they’re trying to be sold a product or service.||When a consumer reads a third-party article written about your product or views coverage of your event on TV, they’re seeing something you didn’t pay for with ad dollars and view it differently than they do paid advertising.|
|Often appears less credible because viewers, readers and listeners are aware if it comes from an unbiased source.||Public relations-based publicity is usually more credible with an audience as it comes via independent media.|
Additionally, public relations costs less than advertising. PR involves a mix of promoting specific products, services and events, and promoting the overall brand of an organization, which is an ongoing task. Individual advertisements are sometimes based on a brand but are more often based on a specific promotional message such as a price cut or the launch of a new product.
Do you work in advertising or public relations? Let us know what you think – leave a comment!
By Natasha Samat, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services