How to Prepare for a Potential Negative Response

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Almost anything today can be twisted toward a negative angle, so it’s important to think through what concerns or responses the information you communicate may face. Below are five steps to help you be prepared in the event of a negative response.

  1. Organize your facts. The best way to get ahead of a story, positive or negative, is to have your information straight. Inconsistencies can start you off on the wrong foot with any audience and even be the reason a story takes a downward turn.

  2. Develop key messages. Once you have your facts organized, determine what information is most relevant and important to communicate. Then write out carefully worded talking points to make sure to deliver these important messages.

  3. Anticipate questions and concerns – and rehearse your responses. The best answer has been well thought out, so the more questions you can anticipate, the better answers you can provide should those questions arise. Be careful not to shy away from controversial or delicate topics if there is a possibility these issues will need to be addressed. These topics are arguably the most important to answer properly. Rehearse these potential questions and your answers out loud several times.  Finally answer questions, even the tough ones, in a way that you can bridge back to your talking points.

  4. Create a communication strategy. Decide which combination of outreach tactics are appropriate. Then, remember your five W’s and an H: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Apply each of these to every aspect of communication: communicating information, tracking audience responses, and providing your responses. Remember to include both internal and external audiences. The more specific you can be, the better. Consider how you will measure the success of your communication plan and effort.

  5. Execute the communication strategy. This may seem the obvious next step, but after you have spent so much time and thought in developing a strategy, it’s important you actually follow what you have set out to do. Use the communication strategy as your guide on what to do when, and if you have the inclination to do anything differently, consult the strategy team before doing it.

You may never face any of the negative responses you anticipate, but you may face all of them. Either way, taking the time to think through your communication before execution will provide you the best chance to present your messages the way you intend.

Linda Palacios