No News is Bad News

There’s a famous saying:

No news is good news.

which many believe to be true. In business, however, where other people are involved, whether they be customers, vendors or employees, little could be further from the truth.

Not everyone likes to be informed of every little change, but when change is happening, people generally like to be informed. They like to be reassured that the status quo will remain, or how it will be changing. The lack of news during times of change, or perceived change, is one way to trigger rumor-mongering, which rarely has a happy ending.

This applies not only internally, for example, when an employee is fired (and people start to wonder if the company is starting to downsize), but also externally. As an example, we can examine what happened this week with one well-known company.

Earlier this week, it was discovered that Apple had rejected an eBook reader published by Sony because of the way purchases were made in the application. Specifically, Apple has a standard purchasing procedure (known by developers as IAP) which the Sony application was not using.

Looking at the Apple guidelines, however, it becomes a little unclear as to what the problem with the Sony application might have been, and what the rejection of the application might mean for other applications, for example, the Kindle app. The guidelines clearly state that all purchases made within an app must use the Apple IAP process, which apparently this app did not.

However, initially there was no comment from Apple, and people started to talk. Was Apple about to take on Amazon for violation of their guidelines in allowing people to purchase books without using the IAP process?

Afterward, to deal with the various rumors that had festered, Apple announced that no changes were being made to their policies, though their announcement left some room for doubt as to how accurate that statement might be. The real issue, though, is the length of time it took to get clarification from Apple.

Apple failed by providing no news, which created a world of speculation as to what the news might be, had they cared to share it. Rather than prevent this, Apple responded and failed to solve the problem.

In your business, when change is expected, make sure you provide information, even if that information states that nothing is changing. People like to be reassured, and the preemptive announcement that there is nothing new can save you from dealing with a large number of rumors that have no basis in reality.