Group Gordon’s Eli Judge shares helpful tips and mistakes to avoid when making major announcements.
In April, Elon Musk made one of his signature splashy announcements: he was going to buy Twitter.
The news spread like wildfire across the internet, and sparked a weeks-long acquisition process that included the Twitter board adopting a “poison pill” defense against the takeover before they eventually acquiesced and agreed to sell him the company for $54.20 a share, a massive premium over the company’s previous share price.
But since that initial announcement, everything seems to have come undone. The stock of Tesla, another of Musk’s companies, plunged as the news broke, potentially imperiling his ability to buy Twitter. Then Musk announced the deal was off until he had done his due diligence about fake accounts. Now there are murmurings that the deal won’t take place at all.
This saga has practically been a case study in how not to make a major announcement. Every step along the way, Musk and his team have made mistakes that others should avoid when making announcements of their own. In this blog, we’ll share some tips on how to steer clear of these pitfalls and make your announcements as impactful as possible.
The biggest mistake that Musk made, and one that seems to be coming back to bite him, was that he was not actually ready to buy Twitter when he announced that he was going to buy Twitter. While he may have had the funding lined up, he hadn’t done a deep dive into the possibility of bot accounts, leaving the purchase in limbo and Musk potentially on the hook for a deal he wouldn’t otherwise want to complete.
This is an easily avoidable error. When sharing major news, do your due diligence and be prepared to defend the announcement. Backtracking, as Musk has done, could lead to negative media coverage, as well as potentially unexpected blowback, as we have seen with Tesla’s stock price dropping precipitously. It also makes your company look unprepared and unprofessional, which could complicate future deals and announcements with partners who no longer see you as someone who will keep your word.
Among many active Twitter users, and among the American public in general, Musk’s proposed plans to turn Twitter into a bastion of “free speech” is not particularly popular. But sometimes you must make an announcement that won’t be popular with every segment of the population. If that’s the case, start by identifying the potential reasons that your announcement could spark backlash. Could some of these issues be avoided, or could parts of the announcement be changed to avoid obvious lines of attack? If so, make those changes before you move forward with the announcement.
But if potential bad press seems inevitable, having a communications plan to respond to the criticism can help you push back against negativity in social and traditional media. Planning ahead of time for potential pushback allows you both to be proactive in quelling disapproval and to react nimbly in real time to critics.
In terms of being ready for the announcement and prepared for criticism, Musk failed on both counts. Because of his failure to do due diligence, the deal to buy Twitter seems less and less likely as each day goes by. And Musk, who seemed unprepared for the unpopularity of his decision, is actually tying seemingly unrelated negative coverage to his attempt to purchase the social media network, which will only increase the PR headache for him and his team.
It’s worth considering that Musk, the world’s richest man and a known internet troll, is doing this all for publicity. He could lose billions in a failed deal to acquire Twitter and still come out fine. But most of us don’t have this luxury. When announcing deals, acquisitions, and other major news, you need to ensure that you are fully prepared to execute on the announcement so that you don’t need to deal with the repercussions of a botched rollout, while also ensuring you have a strong plan in place to deal with any potentially negative press that could come out.