This study examines conventional tactics used in routine, vice crisis, handling of bad news. The status quo appears to prefer good news over bad, letting bad news sit idle for as long as possible. However, public relations models and social penetration, information manipulation, and inoculation theories suggest proactive release of bad news might result in increased community perceptions of source credibility. This, in turn, would strengthen the dyadic relationship between an organization and its constituencies. The study concludes that release of bad news will be necessary as an organization decides what needs to be communicated to achieve genuine understanding, and presents a quasi-experiment with a survey to be used by practitioners. The study is written for military public affairs officers, but has great utility in civilian applications as well.
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Updated: July 22, 1998