Being the Bearer of Bad News

( Listen to this as a podcast)

By Gerard Braud

If it’s not already ugly where you work, it’s going to get ugly.

If it is already ugly, it’s going to get worse.

Now is your time to be a communications star and strategic partner to executives, HR and employees.

I’ve been an employee in the gossip pit and a vice president knowing people in my own department will be laid off.

What I’ve learned from both experiences is that employees need to hear from their employer now more than ever.

Historically, this is when many organizations clam up. Traditionally, executives want to say as little as possible so as not to cause fear. They also walk the line of not wanting to say anything that violates disclosure laws. And often bad news and potential layoffs are moving targets with issues changing daily before the axe finally falls.

My experience says employees begin to gossip more and rumors spread faster when times are tough and executives fail to talk. So how can you be a communications star? Do these 5 things:

• Update your crisis communications plan. This is a classic smoldering crisis. My approach to crisis communications is that the worst time to write communications messages is while in the emotional throes of the situation. Crisis messaging is best written on a clear sunny day. A good crisis communications plan should already have 50-100 pre-written templates about various crisis scenarios. Check your plan to see if messages are already written about falling sales, falling stock prices, executive compensation, layoffs and financial troubles. (Download a full article at )

• Call executives now and ask to discuss your team’s role in strategic communications for the next quarter. Ask to be included in key meetings where you can offer strategic counsel. Above all, keep discussions confidential! Don’t tell your spouse or colleagues in your department. You must not contribute to the rumor mill.

• Open the lines of communications. If you are one of the many frustrated communicators trying to start a corporate blog, do it now. Tell executives this is a place for employees to vent, rant, comfort, console and ask tough questions. Handled correctly, a corporate blog can be therapeutic and should be monitored by both communications and HR. It’s also a great time to add videocasting and podcasting so employees can see and hear from executives. The spoke word adds comfort and honesty written blogs cannot. Video can add more emotion and humanity, provided the person on camera performs well and doesn’t look like a deer caught in the headlights. Social media training is a great way to get executives comfortable with blogs, podcasting and videocasting. (I’ll be teaching a pre-conference class on video for the web at PRSA conference in Detroit. )

• Train your executives now. Media Training, Presentation Training and Social Media Training will prepare them to face the media and employees. Media interviews and employee meetings are just around the corner, if they have not begun already. Executives need to be prepared to answer negative questions from the media and employees. This is a learned art. Each word an executive says will be heavily scrutinized by these cynical audiences. Be a strategic partner and insist on training as early as possible. (Additional tips can be found at: )

• Use it or lose it. If you haven’t faced a budget freeze or cutback yet, it is coming. Dollars that you have set aside now for web design, blogs, media training, presentation training, social media training, a new crisis communications plan, a retreat, conferences, etc. – those dollars may be taken away from you at any minute and/or they may not be there next year. Spend it now.

I’m politely referred to as a senior communicator and in my 28 year career I’ve been through at last 3 serious economic downturns. They are uncomfortable, but you can emerge wiser for the wear. Step up to the plate today and start being the star you were born to be.

Why Do Reporters Interview People With No Teeth Who Live in Trailers?

Crisis Communications Plans are designed to help companies communicate quickly. 

To learn more about the topic in the above headline, you should listen to all of the Gerard Braud audio program, “Don’t Talk to the Media.” Lesson 11 specifically addresses this controversial topic.