Bad News: Break Your Own Story, First

Apple Finds ‘Irregularities’ in Employee Stock Options, Including Some of Jobs’s

Apple Computer Inc. just became “the best-known of several Silicon Valley companies to acknowledge that some stock options awarded to employees might have been mishandled and said the options included a batch granted to co-founder Steve Jobs,” according to the Associated Press.

Both “good” news and “bad” news present CEOs and their organizations with a simple but criticial leadership imperative: Break your own news, first. That means be the first to tell your organization’s story. 

Questions:  Could you have done what Apple’s Steve Jobs just did (attached)? Do you recognize the strategy in Apple’s announcement?  It is a superb case study.

Going public with good news — that’s an easy decision. Ask your PR or Marketing Communications Department to brief you on their media and stakeholder relations plan and then enjoy the headlines or web coverage.

Going public with bad news — that’s a leadership moment. I’ve seen world-class CEOs and management teams freeze like the proverbial deer in the headlights when faced with these moments. What will my boss think? How will our stock react? What will this do to my career?

All the media training in the world will not help you without the fundamental understanding that you and your enterprise are better off telling your own “news”…than letting someone else do so.

I am not saying that sharing “bad” news is easy. I am saying that sharing it first, is. It’s about credibility and leadership. In good times or bad, people look to their leaders to do the right thing.

Being first to “market” with your own news is an important tenant to earning long-lasting credibility, support and even sympathy for your organization. I’ve announced hundreds of stories, good and bad, from Nobel Prize-winning discoveries to the dramatic shutdown of the nation’s entire Cold War-era operations…from historic groundbreakings and computing breakthroughs to plutonium contamination and patient deaths.

Leadership: Steve Jobs

The best approaches had a commonality: Be the first to break your own news. And if you do not know how to do it, especially with bad news, bring in the expertise to train you and/or help you right now. It is not amateur hour. Bring in an experienced vendor if you lack the expertise in-house.

Most of all, do not “hope” something will blow over unnoticed…or think that a “crisis” will not happen to you.

Instead, prepare…beforehand…and demonstrate the leadership your employees and shareholders expect of you.

Apple’s Steve Jobs did just that. The rest of Wall Street should follow his lead.
[Full Story]

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