Thank Heaven for Shiny Objects

“Tell it and tell it fast” is a recipe for dealing with bad news and PR disasters espoused by Robert Dilenschneider.  He should know; he is the former head of global PR firm Hill & Knowlton.  “If you do that,” he goes on to say, “[the problem] goes away in a day.  The attention span of the public is very short.”

Acquisitions will almost always include something that you would rather not have to publicize.  Dilenschneider would have us believe that we needn’t fret so much about it.  The Merger Verger agrees.

Thoughts:

  • Bad news will always “out.” Your choice is (1) deal with it or (2) deal with it plus the all the questions about why you weren’t forthright in the first place.  Few unpleasant choices are so easy.
  • We are in the age of information overload.  No sooner is your nightmare public than some bigger disaster or bigger outrage grabs the limelight.  Thanks be to the Shiny Object syndrome: your news will command attention only until the next shiny object leaps into view.
  • So: seize the high ground proactively and quickly. This will put you – not the Tweetybirds – in charge of the conversation.
  • Present the story in the most humdrum, ordinary-course-of-business way possible. Telling legitimately bad news in a way that is both forthright and boring can be tricky but it is worth the effort.  Why?  Because it makes your object less shiny.
  • Show sensitivity, not angst.  Sensitivity suggests careful thinking; angst suggests indecisiveness (at best) or guilt (at worst).  Either way, the predators will smell it and your object will become shinier.

Anyone got any interesting stories about dealing with bad news?  Share them.

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