Layoffs are rarely good news, and they tend to be even worse press. When a company knows they have a layoff coming, it’s best to have your message prepared ahead of time. And that message should include answers to questions you expect to hear. So, consider all the 5Ws when crafting a response to potential questions. Keep answers brief and honest. Try not to over-explain. Let’s take a look at how one major US brand handled a recent layoff:
Verizon Media Group recently let 150 staffers go, creating a bookend headline that reflects how the company started the year. According to CNN, Verizon Media began 2019 by laying off about 800 employees. Beginning of the year, and the end of the year. Bookends. Quick media tip: when it comes to bad news, try to avoid anything that shows an easy pattern. Those are often irresistible to writers, and that can lead to more memorable negative headlines.
At press time, one question that remained unanswered, apparently, was which brands would be impacted. Verizon Media owns Yahoo, AOL, TechCrunch, and HuffPost, employing more than 10,000 people. When asked about the most recent layoff, Verizon Media spokespeople had a brand-positive message ready:
“Our goal is to create the best experiences for our consumers and the best platforms for our customers. Today we are investing in premium content connections and commerce experiences that connect people to their passions and continue to align our resources to opportunities where we feel we can differentiate ourselves and scale faster…”
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that only two words in that statement really had anything to do with the layoff: “scale faster.” That communicates to investors that Verizon Media needed to trim its workforce in order to take advantage of new opportunities and become more profitable. Otherwise, the balance of the statement was forward-looking, positive, and aspirational.
A deeper dive into headlines about this layoff brings us to Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, who took over a few months ago. The new CEO says this slight restructuring is part of management’s plan to “refocus” the company. “The plan before I took over was a bit all over the place, because we were not that focused… We didn’t drive a lot of execution.”
So, bad news for the lost employees, but a necessary step according to the leadership. Again, layoffs are never “good” news, but they can be properly explained if you plan ahead and stay on message.