Crisis Press Releases [How to do, Template & Examples]

A crisis press release is a formal response to an event that threatens an organization. You may not want to think about ever having to write a crisis press release at a moment's notice, but it is undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects of PR that needs to be done right. In this guide, we’ll go through the steps of how to write a press release during a company crisis with best practices, templates, and examples.

published: June 25, 2024
updated: June 26, 2024

PR crises can turn from a tree burning into a forest fire if not handled correctly. Do not wait for this to happen. Be sure to develop clear-cut crisis communication strategies before this. Although the exact nature of a crisis cannot be calculated in advance, we can proactively plan for certain scenarios and develop a PR plan to tackle the crisis head-on. A crisis press release template is invaluable.

A press release is a written statement directed at the media to reach wider audiences. Its purpose is also to drive the direction of the narrative through factual statements.

A crisis press release is the key to changing the direction of the narrative and minimizing reputational damage which can be difficult to repair.

This guide will define what a crisis press release is and help you navigate the steps of writing one through tips, templates, and examples.

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What is a crisis press release?

A crisis press release is a statement released by an organization in response to a negative situation that addresses the crisis and communicates the steps being taken to resolve it.

Its goal is to let the public know that the organization is taking the necessary steps towards resolving the situation and most importantly, that they care about it. Each situation is different and no matter the effort put into preparing proactive plans, a crisis can mean you’re in uncharted waters. It requires quick thinking and action to stay afloat.

A crisis press release is about being reactive in evaluating the situation and responding quickly and effectively.

What is the purpose of a crisis communication press release?

A crisis communication press release goes hand in hand with crisis communication and crisis management. These include in-depth strategies, planning for ‘what if’ situations and risk analysis, internal comms, and a general protocol on who needs to deliver what message.

Crisis communication press releases are part of this process.. In a fairly short time frame, an organization needs to apply its crisis communication plan to the specific case to filter the narrative and remove any ambiguity that may have brewed.

Types of crisis press releases

Various types of crisis press releases can be used in different situations. As a proactive approach, it helps to think about possible scenarios and have templates to help prepare for them. Here are a few examples that can apply to different industries:

1

Technology fails

Companies are technologically dependent on internal processes and software when handling sensitive customer data.

Technological crises arise when these systems fail, leading to data breaches, cyber-attacks, and industrial accidents.

Organizations often experience technological crises because of human oversight that causes unintended consequences. A technological crisis press release can address potential risks stemming from ethical concerns, AI bias, and information privacy.

2

Public scandals

Scandals are harder to plan and predict.

This includes situations in which the corporate business or a single person related to the business is implicated in political, financial, fraud, and unethical business practices.

Because scandals are often perpetuated through mass media, crisis press releases addressing them have to be meticulous in their overview of events and require extensive analysis for a resolution.

3

Mistakes

Human errors include anything from a harmless typo to miscommunication or cutting corners.

While human mistakes constantly loom, the essence of an organization lies in its people and their character, which is why rectifying human error can be easier through press releases.

However, note that this can depend on the nature and impact of the error.

Depending on the mistake, people are generally more likely to forgive human error. Accordingly, crisis press releases should include a transparent acknowledgment of the mistake, a clear explanation of the situation, and assurances of prevention in the future.

4

Legal actions

Lawsuits, copyrights, regulatory actions, and disputes can lead to legal action. While litigation isn't always detrimental for businesses, it can harm a company's reputation if the public is kept in the dark about the proceedings.

Press releases for legal actions need to be heavily informed by the company’s lawyer and legal PR strategies.

Predicting the extent of reputation damage from legal action can be resolved under the radar or last for months or even years to come.

How to write a crisis press release?

How to write a crisis press release? : Step by step

Step 1: Meeting with involved parties

Before writing a crisis press release, it is important to set the scene straight. Clearly and clinically discuss the main issues, who was involved, and who is affected so the company can understand the full extent of the situation and subsequently, its degree of reputational damage. Meeting with involved parties can help identify risks from multiple perspectives to plan the next steps.

At this stage, it is best to release a holding statement through appropriate channels.

Holding statements acknowledge a crisis and inform the public that actions are being taken to address the situation.

This statement provides a buffer between the crisis and the press release. It can safeguard the company's reputation by limiting rumors and unnecessary speculations in the meantime.

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Step 2: Start with the facts

It is best to show cooperation and accountability instead of excuses and defenses.

When writing a crisis press release, start with a rundown of the factual events that have taken place in straightforward language.

Write two to three key points and avoid adding adjectives and opinions. It should be brief and to the point. This section highlights the company’s acknowledgment of the situation as a first step towards taking accountability. It also helps isolate the issue and clear up speculations and rumors that may have surfaced in the aftermath of the crisis.

Step 3: Address the implications

An organization's response to negative attention needs to be informed by the nature of the crisis and the company values and standards. Address the consequences of the events with empathy. Was the incident discriminatory? Did it single out specific individuals? Ensure the response is clear and specific, avoiding vague language. The scope of this section depends on the specific situation.

Start by addressing the implications and empathizing with the ones affected, and end with company values and what they stand for.

Step 4: Explain next actions

Sometimes, we can’t fix a leaky roof with a single patch whereas other times it is not always possible to rectify the situation with a single action.

In this section, list the steps the company will take to help those affected, whether through compensation, offering support services, or other appropriate measures.

Then, give an overview of the steps that will be taken to assure that the situation will not repeat in the future.

The actions need to reflect the extent of the damage caused. Think of this as a chance to reverse the damage –while this may not always be possible, actions can show the public that the company is willing to put money, time, and effort into correcting and amending the issues caused by the crisis.

How to distribute your company crisis press release

Distribute to known journalists

During the onset, it is best to reach out to outlets and journalists with whom the company already has a relationship because there is a pre-existing foundation of trust and understanding. This leads to a better reception of the company's message during a crisis and increases the likelihood of the story being given priority or being seen by the target audience.

Press release distribution services

Crisis press releases can also be distributed via press release submission services. These extend the reach of the press release to audiences who may have heard about the crisis but aren’t sufficiently connected to the brand to receive the acknowledgment statement. It also prevents the likelihood of the crisis being discussed in the future with incomplete information about how the organization reacted. Using a distribution service can also lead to the possibility of the press release being picked up and shared by other journalists.

Social media distribution

Since a crisis press release needs to be addressed quickly, distributing a press release through social media reduces the time it takes for journalists and outlets to cover the crisis. Its effectiveness hinges on the severity of the situation and whether the press release is written well and with journalists and the public in consideration.

What to do when making a press release for a company crisis?

1

Language

Pay attention to the language you use to communicate in the press release. This depends heavily on cultural contexts such as where the company is based and their customers are. But in general, a crisis press release should be brief without unnecessary elaborations and verbosity. Omit filler words and vague nouns. This helps make the statement genuine and impactful.

2

Tone

Convey a professional attitude. Clients may be upset, confrontational, or demanding, but a crisis press release should reflect a certain level of calmness. It should reassure the public that the company is taking the situation seriously and is committed to addressing it. While it is necessary to show empathy and concern, coming off as overly defensive or emotional can undermine the credibility of the response.

3

Recipients

Keep in mind the distribution method for the crisis press release. If it is being distributed to journalists your press release needs to convince them it is worthy of publication in media outlets. Journalists single out quotes and statements from press releases, so keep in mind that everything written needs to be accurate.

Similarly, if the press release is being published on social media, write for your target audience and the general public by adjusting the tone and format accordingly. Ambiguity or misunderstandings could be detrimental to how the message is portrayed.

What to avoid when making a press release for a crisis

1

Putting the audience first

Focusing on ‘I’ makes a company seem self-serving and inconsiderate of the crises and who it affects externally. Avoid overly referencing the company or specific individuals and turn the conversation to the audience. This will make the communication between them more credible and sincere.

2

Deflecting

Whether a public apology is warranted depends on the significance of the crisis but deviating from the purpose of the crisis press release can worsen the situation. If the brand is committed to resolving the crisis, it is important to acknowledge and be transparent about the issue. Diverging from its purpose appears to indicate that the company is not taking responsibility for its actions.

3

False claims

Journalists are known to investigate and uncover information. They can also isolate quotes and statements from the press release to determine their accuracy and assess the credibility of the information. Making false claims will do the opposite of what a crisis press is designed to do; it can exacerbate the situation, potentially triggering another crisis.

4

Keep employees informed

Think about the options to keep employees informed. Trying to curb a PR crisis with a press release requires strong internal communication. Keeping employees informed about the crisis and what the press release will address will help ensure they are aligned with the company's messaging and can present a united front in responding to inquiries.

5

Strategic silence

It is not always necessary to mention every little detail about a certain issue. The strategy of staying silent needs to be informed by its impact on public attitude, stock, and the extent of damage. Making a judgment call involves carefully evaluating the potential impact of releasing, validating, or corroborating certain information as opposed to maintaining silence to avoid escalating the situation.

Crisis press release template and format suggestion

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Crisis press release examples

Boeing's press release to strengthen quality and safety after mid-exit door incident

Boeing's press release

After Boeing 737-9 experienced a mid-exit door failure in January 2024, they cooperated with investigations and implemented a safety and quality plan to improve production, workforce training, and safety culture to prevent similar incidents. Boeing emphasizes their commitment to safety and improvement with a dedicated page for updates. Read the full statement here.

OpenAI addresses unintended celebrity voice resemblance in ChatGPT

OpenAI's press release

In May 2024, OpenAI admitted a misstep when their voice selection for a conversation AI resembled the voice of American actress Scarlett Johansson. In their press release, they apologized for not being transparent in the voice casting process and assured users the AI voice wasn't an imitation. Respecting the celebrity's concerns, they paused the use of the Sky voice. Read the full statement here.

Roku’s unauthorized account access

Roku's press release

In April 2024, Roku, a streaming service and smart TV company, identified that unauthorized accounts had tried to log in to Roku user accounts through stolen credential stuffing. Roku promptly addressed future implementations to improve security. Read the full statement here.

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Conclusion

It's always good to take a step back and assess if a press release will escalate the crisis for the better or worse. It is important to match the response to the level of emergency. Your solution needs to match the scale of the problem. However, tips and templates are beneficial to get a grasp on what to include or exclude in a crisis press release if the situation does arise. This guide highlighted the types of crisis press releases, the sentiments to evaluate beforehand, and the strategies to consider.

To be successful in mitigating crises through press releases, well-informed strategies are required. At PRLab, in addition to brand awareness, we focus on crisis management, including employing the correct strategies for appropriate situations so there is no ambiguity on how the situation could have been handled.

June 25, 2024
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