We do our best as PR pros to highlight our clients in a positive light and place them in a bubble of great news. However, it is unlikely that the road ahead is only full of butterflies, daisies, and smiles. When a crisis arises and bad news is foreseeable, the way you handle and transmit the information is crucial. Jessica Sharp, of Maven Communications, tackles bearing bad news with the following five steps:
1. Be sure the client hears the news from you first. Having them learn about it through a Google alert sent to their inbox, or an email from an old friend should not happen.
2. Deliver the news promptly. Let them know what happened right away. If you landed them on The Today Show you would call right away. The same is true when their interview is cut from the front page New York Times article, and in its place is a quote from their largest competitor.
3. Pick up the phone. Don’t send an email or worse, a text. They need to hear from you what happened. If all attempts to contact them via phone or in person fail, then, only then, is it okay to send an email (first explaining that you tried to reach them before sending the email).
4. Give it to them straight. Don’t try to make the situation sound better than it is. You’re not going to fool them anyway. Be direct and don’t beat around the bush.
5. Propose your plan of action for dealing with the issue at hand. It’s important that you have this formulated before you call your client. Determine what your next steps are, how you’re going to move forward and if possible, fix the problem. Although it’s likely that your client is going to be pretty upset, presenting a possible solution can reassure them that you’re a professional who has been through this before. This is not the end of the world.
Next time you find yourself in a tough spot, quickly refocus and create a proactive plan to counteract the damage. Make sure your client hears the bad news from you and tell them immediately. Call your client directly, informing them of the bad news or better yet, tell them in person. Do not fabricate the situation, give them the straight facts. Respond to their frustration with your plan, ideally offsetting the negative with a positive.
What do you do when you have to tell a client something they do not want to hear, what tools help you bring forth the bad news?