Determining the Strategy

Determining the Strategy

Determining the Strategy

When faced with the problem of making a negative announcement, your first step should be to determine your overall strategy. Will you use direct or indirect organization? In most cases the indirect (buffer) arrangement will be better. This route is especially recommended when it is reasonable to expect that the readers would be surprised. particularly disappointed. or even angered by a direct presentation. When planning an indirect announcement. you will need to think about what kind or buffer opening to use, what kind of explanation to give, how to word the news itself, and how to leave your readers feeling that you have taken their interests into account.

Setting Up the Bad News

As with the preceding negative message types, you should plan your indirect (buffer)

beginning carefully. You should think through the situation and select a strategy that

will set up or begin the explanation that justifies the announcement. Perhaps you will

begin by presenting justifying information. Or maybe you will start with complimentary

or cordial talk focusing on the good relationship that you and your readers have

developed. Whatever you choose should be what will be most likely to prepare your

reader to accept the coming bad news


Positively Presenting the Bad News

In most cases, the opening paragraph will enable you to continue with background reasons or explanations in the next paragraph, before you present the negative news.

Such explaining will help you put the negative news in the middle of the paragraph rather than at the beginning, where it would be emphasized. As in other negative situations, you should use positive words and avoid unnecessary negative comments when presenting the news itself. Since this is an announcement, however, you must make certain that you cover all the factual details Involved. People may not be expecting this news. They will, therefore, want to know the why's and what's of the situation. And if you want them to believe that you have done all you can to prevent the negative situation, you will need to provide evidence that this is true. If there are actions the readers must take, these should be covered clearly as well. All questions that may come to the readers' minds should be anticipated and covered.

Focusing on Next Steps or Remaining Benefits

In many cases negative news will mean that things have changed. Customers may no longer be able to get a product that they have relied upon, or employees may have to find a way to pay for something that they have been getting free. For this reason, a skillful handling of a negative announcement will often need to include an effort to help people solve the problem that your news just created for them. In situations where you have no further help to offer-for example, when announcing certain price reserpine you can still help people your news by they to enjoy.


Ending on a Positive Note

Since even a skillfully handled bad-news presentation can be disappointing to the reader, you should end the message on a forward-looking note. Your goal here is to

shift the reader's thoughts to happier things-perhaps what you would say if you were in face-to-face conversation with the person. Preferably your comments should fit the one case, and they should not recall the negative message to the reader's mind. They should make clear that you value your relationship with the reader and still regard it as a positive one. Following are adaptations of this general plan to four of the more common negative business message situations. From these applications you should be able to see how to adapt this general plan to almost any other negative message situation.


As explained in Chapter 6, when a message is primarily bad news, you usually should

write in the indirect order. The indirect order is especially effective when you must

say no or convey other disappointing news. The main reason for this approach is that

negative messages arc received more positively when an explanation precedes them,

An explanation may even convince the reader that the writer's position is correct. In

addition, an explanation cushions the shock of bad news. Not cushioning the shock

makes the message unnecessarily harsh, and harshness destroys goodwill. You may want to use directness in some bad-news situations. If, fur example, you think that your negative answer will be accepted routinely, you might choose directness. For example,

in many buyer-seller relationships in business, both parties expect backboard and

order errors to occur now and then. Thus messages reporting this negative information are considered routine and are written in direct order. You also might choose directness if you know your reader well and feel that he or she will appreciate frankness. And you might choose directness anytime you are not concerned about goodwill. But such instances are not the rule. Usually you would be wise to use indirectness in refusals.

As in the preceding chapter, we first describe a general plan. Then we adapt this plan

to specific business situations-four in this case. First is the refusal of a request. We cover

it in detail. Next we cover the refusal of a request for adjustment and refusals of credit.

Since these last two situations are similar to the first one, we cover them briefly. The

focus here is on special considerations involving each type. Finally, we cover negative

announcements, which are a form of bad-news messages with unique characteristics.