5 tips for Breaking Bad News

I recently read an article in PR Daily  by Christina Miranda that outlines ways to deliver bad news to any audience.  With so much emphasis on creating positive buzz and spreading good news, delivering bad news is often overlooked.  Whether you’re an HR manager letting an employee go or a PR person writing a press release during a crisis, Miranda gives five tips for delivering bad news that everyone could use:

1. Don’t get emotional.  Whether or not you agree with the news you have to deliver isn’t important.  It’s your job and it has to be done.  Getting teary-eyed and telling someone you “didn’t want to have to do this,” only adds fuel to the fire.

2. Get to the point.  Saying how wonderful your company is for a half hour before saying that you’re raising prices is a waste of time.  What will make the news is the price increase, not the positives, so you might as well cut to the chase.  Making people wait for the bad news is often worse than the news itself.

3. Consider when to deliver the news.  Breaking bad news too soon can be risky but waiting too long could be worse.  Take your audience into consideration and figure out what time is best in order to ease the pain.

4. Don’t be tricky or vague.  Be as clear and concise about the issue as possible.  There’s no point in creating false hopes.  A good example of this can be seen by the Miami Dolphin’s coaches on the HBO show Hard Knocks.  They bring players in, they tell them they are cutting them immediately and explain why in a couple of short sentences.  Then they quickly explain what will happen next and escort them out the door.  Clear, honest and to the point.

5.  Remember that nothing is confidential.  In a world where information spreads a mile a minute, be aware of how you’re delivering the bad news.  How well you handle yourself may effect how the message is received by others as information is spread.  Miranda suggests asking yourself, “How would I feel if 50 million people knew about this tomorrow?”

Above all, remember that bad news is bad.  You can’t expect people to be happy they’re getting cut from the team.  Be realistic and expect your audience to be upset.

- H. Acito


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