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Breaking The Bad News….When 
People Don’t Want to Listen 
Charles Meaden
30 Seconds About Me… 
 Founded Digital Nation 17 years ago 
 Analysing websites for 19 years 
 5th time at Measurecamp, 5th talk 
 We do a lot of troubleshooting
Can You See What The Problem Is?
“Not Convinced That We Have A Problem” 
 Our data and analysis clearly indicated a problem 
 We presented our finding 
 But no action was taken
What Do I Mean By Bad News? 
 Any analysis or reporting that shows a decline in performance 
compared to a baseline or a running average 
 What effect will this bad news have? 
 Official definition 
 results in a cognitive, behavioral, or emotional deficit in the person 
receiving the news that persists for some time after the news is 
received 
 My definition 
 That the person isn’t going to be a ‘happy bunny’ and really isn’t going 
to like you for a while
We’re all rational 
 Surely educated, intelligent adults should be able to take bad news 
 Here’s a couple of reasons why…
Fear 
 None of us like bad news 
 What’s the impact going to be on 
person receiving it 
 Personal reputation 
 Economic impact 
 What else is this going effect
Distrust 
 “70 to 80% of all analytics 
setups I examine are seriously 
flawed” 
Craig Sullivan @optimiseordie 
 If previous setups have been 
flawed, why should they trust 
your data and analysis
Ignorance and Confusion 
 Our ‘clients’ don’t understand 
what we are talking about 
 Analysts have a tendency to 
talk in our their language 
 Sometimes our clients don’t 
have the time to learn 
 Sometimes they don’t want to 
learn or can’t be bothered
So What Can We Do 
 Here is a list of ways that we can get people to listen to us 
 Then it’s your turn
Don’t Hide The Facts 
 Be brutally honest 
 If you try and hide the facts, someone else will find them
Document Everything 
 Before presenting verbally, document the whole issue 
 It’ll help you present the case 
 It can be emailed around as soon as the news has been delivered
Don’t Delay 
 Bad news gets worse the longer you leave it
Justify Your Actions 
 Be prepared to stand up for yourself 
 Sometime things are outside of your control
Spend Time Getting to Know The Client 
 Time spent getting to know what makes the client ‘tick’ will help you 
frame the way that bad news is delivered 
 Try and understand what fears the client has and what worries 
them the most
Speak Their Language 
 Describe the problem in language that they understand 
 Use the metrics and KPI’s that they understand 
 The very first question we always ask new clients is 
 “What do you want to know about visitors to your site”
Talk to Everyone Affected 
 If you’re delivering news to multiple teams (especially in the 
enterprise), 
 Try and take informal soundings from each team about the effects it 
will have 
 Find out what is the best way to present the news
Back It Up With Data 
 Carefully explain using data the exact nature of the problem 
 Explain where the data was sourced from and it’s context 
 Keep your working in reserve
Show Them The Money 
 If there is any economic 
impact, don’t try and hide 
this away 
 Make it as clear as possible 
the actual costs 
 Outline the costs if the 
situation is allowed to 
continue
Be Positive – Provide Solutions and Actions 
 Look for a silver lining to soften the blow – are there any upsides to 
the issue or insights that can be gleaned 
 Deliver the bad news with a set of possible actions and scenarios to 
remedy the issue
Take It On The Chin 
 If you or your team caused the 
problem, take the blame as 
soon as possible 
 Make sure you’re also part of 
the solution 
 Regain people’s trust
Be Careful with the Blame Thrower 
 If a third party has caused the 
problem, name them 
 Be fair to them 
 Provide and document your 
reasons
One Problem, Many Audiences 
 The news will leave the room 
 Depending on how bad it is, it will spread far and wide and possibly 
to the very top 
 When presenting the bad news, consider all the audiences
Understand the Fear 
 Take the time to understand what is making them fearful 
 Sometimes the first reason they give you is actually hiding 
something else
Educate Your Audience 
 What steps can you take to make your clients more 
knowledgeable? 
 Take their real world issues and show them how to resolve them 
 We use 
 Snag It for screenshots 
 Camtasia for screen movies 
 JoinMe for desktop sharing
Follow Up and Follow Through 
 Once the bad news has been delivered 
 Get going on the recovery plan 
 Keep everyone in the loop as to what is happening
Thank You 
 Follow me @charlesmeaden 
 Email: charles@digitalnation.co.uk 
 Big hat tip to the following and many others from the talk from 
their thoughts and contributions 
 Yves-Marie Lemaître @yh1 
 Hugh Gage @hughgage 
 Craig Sullivan @optimiseordie 
 Elisabeth Rizzi @ElisabethRizzi 
 Penelope Bellegarde - @Penanalytics 
 James Wawne

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How to Break Bad News When No-One is Listening

  • 1. Breaking The Bad News….When People Don’t Want to Listen Charles Meaden
  • 2. 30 Seconds About Me…  Founded Digital Nation 17 years ago  Analysing websites for 19 years  5th time at Measurecamp, 5th talk  We do a lot of troubleshooting
  • 3. Can You See What The Problem Is?
  • 4. “Not Convinced That We Have A Problem”  Our data and analysis clearly indicated a problem  We presented our finding  But no action was taken
  • 5. What Do I Mean By Bad News?  Any analysis or reporting that shows a decline in performance compared to a baseline or a running average  What effect will this bad news have?  Official definition  results in a cognitive, behavioral, or emotional deficit in the person receiving the news that persists for some time after the news is received  My definition  That the person isn’t going to be a ‘happy bunny’ and really isn’t going to like you for a while
  • 6. We’re all rational  Surely educated, intelligent adults should be able to take bad news  Here’s a couple of reasons why…
  • 7. Fear  None of us like bad news  What’s the impact going to be on person receiving it  Personal reputation  Economic impact  What else is this going effect
  • 8. Distrust  “70 to 80% of all analytics setups I examine are seriously flawed” Craig Sullivan @optimiseordie  If previous setups have been flawed, why should they trust your data and analysis
  • 9. Ignorance and Confusion  Our ‘clients’ don’t understand what we are talking about  Analysts have a tendency to talk in our their language  Sometimes our clients don’t have the time to learn  Sometimes they don’t want to learn or can’t be bothered
  • 10. So What Can We Do  Here is a list of ways that we can get people to listen to us  Then it’s your turn
  • 11. Don’t Hide The Facts  Be brutally honest  If you try and hide the facts, someone else will find them
  • 12. Document Everything  Before presenting verbally, document the whole issue  It’ll help you present the case  It can be emailed around as soon as the news has been delivered
  • 13. Don’t Delay  Bad news gets worse the longer you leave it
  • 14. Justify Your Actions  Be prepared to stand up for yourself  Sometime things are outside of your control
  • 15. Spend Time Getting to Know The Client  Time spent getting to know what makes the client ‘tick’ will help you frame the way that bad news is delivered  Try and understand what fears the client has and what worries them the most
  • 16. Speak Their Language  Describe the problem in language that they understand  Use the metrics and KPI’s that they understand  The very first question we always ask new clients is  “What do you want to know about visitors to your site”
  • 17. Talk to Everyone Affected  If you’re delivering news to multiple teams (especially in the enterprise),  Try and take informal soundings from each team about the effects it will have  Find out what is the best way to present the news
  • 18. Back It Up With Data  Carefully explain using data the exact nature of the problem  Explain where the data was sourced from and it’s context  Keep your working in reserve
  • 19. Show Them The Money  If there is any economic impact, don’t try and hide this away  Make it as clear as possible the actual costs  Outline the costs if the situation is allowed to continue
  • 20. Be Positive – Provide Solutions and Actions  Look for a silver lining to soften the blow – are there any upsides to the issue or insights that can be gleaned  Deliver the bad news with a set of possible actions and scenarios to remedy the issue
  • 21. Take It On The Chin  If you or your team caused the problem, take the blame as soon as possible  Make sure you’re also part of the solution  Regain people’s trust
  • 22. Be Careful with the Blame Thrower  If a third party has caused the problem, name them  Be fair to them  Provide and document your reasons
  • 23. One Problem, Many Audiences  The news will leave the room  Depending on how bad it is, it will spread far and wide and possibly to the very top  When presenting the bad news, consider all the audiences
  • 24. Understand the Fear  Take the time to understand what is making them fearful  Sometimes the first reason they give you is actually hiding something else
  • 25. Educate Your Audience  What steps can you take to make your clients more knowledgeable?  Take their real world issues and show them how to resolve them  We use  Snag It for screenshots  Camtasia for screen movies  JoinMe for desktop sharing
  • 26. Follow Up and Follow Through  Once the bad news has been delivered  Get going on the recovery plan  Keep everyone in the loop as to what is happening
  • 27. Thank You  Follow me @charlesmeaden  Email: charles@digitalnation.co.uk  Big hat tip to the following and many others from the talk from their thoughts and contributions  Yves-Marie Lemaître @yh1  Hugh Gage @hughgage  Craig Sullivan @optimiseordie  Elisabeth Rizzi @ElisabethRizzi  Penelope Bellegarde - @Penanalytics  James Wawne