A departing employee can cause a number of headaches for a business, including an interruption in customer service, defections of clients and a loss of sales. Using an announcement letter to warn clients about the departure of the employee can be a positive, proactive public relations strategy to help you turn a potential lemon into lemonade.

Set Your Goals for the Letter

Decide why you want or need to contact your clients to let them know about a staff member’s departure. Use a bullet-point list to help you tailor different letters to the different needs of the clients you’ll be contacting. For example, you might need to reassure some clients there will be no interruption in their deliveries or customer service. You might need to let other clients know they have a new contact at your company, who that person will be and that the new rep will be calling them. You might wish to address rumors, inform clients that the departing employee has a non-compete clause you intend to enforce, or that the employee is leaving on good terms.

Talk to the Employee

Meet with the employee to discuss your plan to contact clients. Ask the employee for tips to communicate with specific clients, based on his relationships with them, knowledge of their history and needs, and thoughts on their potential concerns. Ask the employee if he’d like the reason for his departure communicated or if you should leave that out of the letter. Even if you are separating from an employee on bad terms, neither of you should burn bridges and damage anyone’s reputation in the marketplace.

Decide on the Recipients

Write a list of the recipients of the letter, so you can tailor the contents to each one. Document the reasons you are writing each client next to the client’s name, and make notes about any specific content you’ll want to include or omit in that client’s letter.

Write the First Draft

Write the first draft of the letter, addressing the client by name. Start by offering a reassurance, such as, “XYZ Co. has always taken pride in our ability to provide excellent customer service via our trained, professional staff.” Then, alert the client that your employee is leaving, and why, if you have decided to include that information. Address any concerns the client might have and tell how you’ll address them. Introduce the client’s new contact and her contact information and be sure to include any applicable transition dates. Add a postscript that calls out any important pieces of information you want to stand out, such as the fact that the new contact will be calling to introduce herself this week. Finish with an invitation to the client to contact you personally if the client has any questions.

Finalize the Letter

Have your key managers and each client’s new contact review your draft of the different letters you create to solicit input. Once you have received input on your first draft of your client letter, create the final copies. Let the appropriate staff members see the final draft before it’s signed and distributed.