What's the best way to communicate store or plant closings and accompanying staff layoffs?

With economists talking about a slowing economy, crisis communications of this type will become more of an issue for clients in many different sectors.

With economists talking about a slowing economy, crisis communications of this type will become more of an issue for clients in many different sectors. Planning your external and internal communications strategy is time well-spent. And since messaging about bad news must come from the top, the right management team must be at the table and in agreement with your recommendations.

Overcommunicate to staff. Announcing closures and layoffs in-person will mean a lot to affected workers. It sends a strong message that the company cares about them. Also commit to regular updates from management, giving employees as much information as possible. Building an intranet that answers questions about benefits and outplacement can also be very helpful.

The challenge in communicating bad news externally is staying on-message. Strategic key messages and an in-depth Q&A are critical components for any manager delivering the news outside the company, whether it is to media, community partners, customers, distributors, or vendors.

It's human nature to want to soften a tough message or give more information. Staying on-message creates a consistent, unified story that protects a company's reputation during challenging times.

Gail Whitcomb is SVP at The Powell Group.

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