Hi, a big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Today I answer the question that we often don’t discuss openly. How to break the bad news in business with a proper presentation deck.
A young marketing manager asked me how to share the results of paid social media campaigns with her management that didn’t go well and put a deck together. So here are three approaches to use to help you maintain that respect you have as a subject matter expert.
In this episode:
- No Sugar Coating approach
- Everything is Relative approach
- Mixed News approach
- Presentation flow tips
- Key elements of a good presentation
Quotes from the episode:
“You need to explain the logic surrounding the initiative’s benefit and tell the backstory. But when you are talking about the outcomes, you should also explain the root causes of the outcomes.”
“There are usually bits of good news and bad news to pull from. Can you identify three good news examples and three bad news examples? I guarantee you can do that.”
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To expand your knowledge about how to break bad news in business, create an effective and professional presentation deck, check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog posts, and video.
Hi, a big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Today I answer the question that we often don’t discuss openly: How to break the bad news to your management with a proper presentation deck.
A young marketing manager asked me how to share the results of paid social media campaigns that didn’t go well and put a deck together.
We all have encountered a situation where we need to share campaign failures or high dollars and a good-intentioned initiative that went south with our management. How do we communicate that without losing credibility or our jobs? The first question is usually something along the lines of the following:
Should we hide it, or should we spin it?
But my recommendation on this is don’t hide it or spin it. It’s about how to share information. A young marketing manager asked me how to share the results of paid social media campaigns that didn’t go well and put a deck together.
So here are three approaches to use to help you maintain that respect you have as a subject matter expert.
1) Tell it like it is.
2) Soften the blow.
3) A mix of good and the bad news
So let me elaborate on these three approaches.
1) Tell it like it is.
No sugarcoating. In your presentation, you explain the following: what you did and why you did it. And this part is crucial. You need to explain the logic surrounding the initiative’s benefit and tell the backstory. Remind everybody why we started that initiative. Then you talk about the outcomes (of course, it’s not that great). But when you are talking about the outcomes, you should also explain the root causes of the outcomes. Again, be very specific about these; it shows that you know what went wrong and, you know, actually what the causes are, which is great. After that, you can talk about what you will do about it. What lessons have been learned, how you share this lesson learned–with everybody else, hopefully together as a team, that we will do better.
2) Soften the blow.
You position the actual results against something else. Everything is relative. So in your presentation, you still explain what you did and why you did it. (Remember, I talk about explaining the backstory). When you are talking about the results, yes, the results are not that gray and didn’t meet expectations. Still, you can identify, say, the third-party or historical data to show it’s not that bad. Make a comparison.
Softening the blow is about finding information and finding advocates on your behalf to explain the outcome that they are not as dire as they may seem. As I said, everything is relative.
3) Offer a mix of good and bad news.
This is what I call 3×3–you share three highlights and three low lights. Not everything is terrible when you are working on any campaigns or initiatives. There are usually bits of good news and bad news to pull from. Can you identify three good news examples and three bad news examples? I guarantee you can do that.
Again, be very transparent. You can argue that this is another approach to softening the blow. I see this as telling it like it is. I can always find highlights and lowlights in all the major projects and campaigns I’ve done. So can you. For example, I ran a Facebook campaign. It was a total disaster, but I also learned a Facebook ad platform so well that I know how to optimize it for my upcoming campaigns to be a highlight! (laughs)
The other one, you know, I launched a new platform for all sales teams, but the adoption rate was so low. It was so low to the point that we got sales management’s attention; the sales team committed to retaking the training courses one next quarter. Well, you know, as I said, it’s how you say it. That can be a highlight too, but again, the adoption rate was so low it got management’s attention. It got them to help us to turn the ship around. So that can also be a highlight. (I know I’m pushing it, but you know what I’m talking about.) I have discovered the best way to share the bad news is to pepper it with good news: three highlights and three low lights.
Now let’s talk about the flow of the presentation.
Start with the key objectives of the deck and the key questions you want to address; set expectations upfront; scope your presentation to answer specific questions. (If someone asks the questions outside of that scope, great if you know the answer. If you don’t, you can say that you’re going to follow up with an email, or you will address it at the next meeting, right?) Don’t be afraid. Be very assertive. Share the three highlights first, then move on to talk about three low lights and the potential causes for missteps and failures.
Finally, allow the management team to ask questions and have a discussion. And this is a crucial part I want to share with you. When you prep the deck, you need to anticipate a list of your management’s questions. Try to understand what kind of questions they will ask and prepare for that. If they are very data-driven, you need to know your data well.
Communicate next steps. In this portion of the deck, you lead the team to look ahead. What are you planning to do next? How will you apply what you’ve learned? What else do you need from management to move forward positively? So, this is how I share bad news with management. I’d love to hear from you if you have other recommendations on how to do this.
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Hello@pamdidner.com. All right, take care. Bye.