The slow unveiling of bad corporate news

It’s not surprising that Apple has been slow to reveal the exact details of Steve Jobs’ health. These types of material announcements need to be carefully managed by the communications team which includes the oftentimes slow navigation through the C-suite, legal department and Board. But as Mathew Ingram accurately points out, the slow unveiling of bad corporate news impacts credibility. Certainly the news about Mr. Jobs’ health demands sensitivity and respect and perhaps is none of our business. However, his massive influence on everything Apple means that the company’s share price benefits from him being the CEO. So the slow and controlled releasing of info about this material news is not surprising, even if it’s disappointing.

Big, publicly traded companies, and government, for better or for worse, tend to slowly release bad news. Consider how news trickled out in the US regarding the financial crisis. The Bush administration, the Federal Reserve, Lehman Brothers and others basically said everything was more or less OK until they could no longer publicly deny the facts. Certainly it took them time to fully understand what was happening and how to begin to solve the problem, but arguably they weren’t going to confirm anything until they had to. 

This drawn out method of releasing important news certainly gets in the way of credibility, authenticity and transparency. However, I don’t think the objective is always to obfuscate the truth. Few people hurry to share bad news, including the leaders at big companies and government. This is a fact of life. That said, whether the internal foot dragging is meant to hide the facts or is the result of human nature and denial, taking too long to share bad news impacts credibility.

2 thoughts on “The slow unveiling of bad corporate news

  1. I believe a heavy dose of human behaviour is at play here and it makes me think of a local situation.

    CBC Radio’s Andy Barrie has been off as Metro Morning’s host for several weeks now to take care of “family matters.” While many of his loyal listeners feel badly that, in addition to his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he’s now dealing with family issues, I wonder how many will shift their listening loyalty to another station?

    For one of the highest rated morning shows in the GTA this won’t be good news—even for a taxpayer-funded media.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Christine. Andy Barrie certainly is missed on Metro Morning but I suspect listener loyalty will remain as we wait for more news. I know taking care of “family matters” is a vague statement but it may also be true and in this case, the CBC and Mr Barrie may still be determining next steps.

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