Even in the always-on Internet era, many companies and government offices still rely on the old trick of waiting until late Friday afternoon to release bad news.
In most cases they're just making things worse come Monday. Here's why:
You stop nothing. People who care most have news alerts, stock tickers and other Internet tracking gizmos to get your stuff the second it hits the fan. Your stock will still move in after-hours trading guided by speculation and negative expectations. Media outlets will still run breaking news, except this time you’ll be covered either by reporters who know to dig for whatever you’re trying to hide or by inexperienced weekend reporters who don’t know the situation.
You create a new credibility issue. Maybe ten people on the planet won’t perceive that you tried to bury bad news on Friday afternoon. You risk creating a whole new PR problem with stakeholders and media for thinking they don’t see you trying to sneak out the back.
You dig a deeper hole. Friday-night announcements don’t make bad news go away. They create a 48-hour vacuum for people to assume the worst. Some will interpret your move as a signal that there’s still another shoe to drop. You could be in a worse defensive position on Monday morning as you reopen the doors to angry shareholders, anxious employees and reporters working on follow-up pieces about your company mishandled a crisis.
You still announce on Monday anyway. Assuming you’re somewhat successful in burying your bad news over the weekend, you’ll have to deal with the response on Monday from people seeing the news for the first time. Now you’re dealing with two sets of responses: the people who are just hearing it, and the people who saw and reacted to it over the weekend.
Bad News Friday isn’t a secret, it’s bad public relations.
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