The Perfect Press Release: Your First Aid for Crisis Management

If a company faces a public crisis, it can be hard to know where to begin. Whether or not that crisis stemmed from an issue that was in the company’s control or not, the most important thing to do i...

Intelligent Relations
By Intelligent Relations Team

If a company faces a public crisis, it can be hard to know where to begin. Whether or not that crisis stemmed from an issue that was in the company’s control or not, the most important thing to do is to take action to calm panic and get things back on track. 

Of course you never want your company to encounter any crisis, but in the event it does remember that transparent communication regarding the situation can usually make all the difference—with both customers and stakeholders alike. 

In our experience, silence after any scandal, lawsuit, or bad press is never a good choice. 

Now, the best way to initiate crisis management with communication is by issuing a press release. In this guide, we’re going to share everything you need to know to draft a press release for crisis communication while answering the following questions: 

The main types of crisis communication press releases

A crisis communication press release is a statement that explains what the crisis is and what’s being done about it. This missive, written and issued by the company in question, is distributed to media outlets in order to hopefully take more control of the narrative. 

The aim of a crisis communication press release is protection, for the company and individuals involved, by offering a clear, concise, impactful response. 

While there may not be many questions about what constitutes a crisis, there may be some about what crisis actually warrants the issue of a press release. Well, for any crisis that’s picked up by the media, clear communications beats letting blanket coverage affect your business. 

Here are some troublesome instances that could require a crisis communication press release: 

  • Scandals. These might revolve around a company’s finances, such as tax errors, but could also involve staff members that, for example, abused their power. 
  • Court cases. Many high-profile cases are picked up by mainstream media. Even if the charges are dropped, any court appearance can be damaging. 
  • Disasters. Perhaps a natural disaster affected your ability to offer products or services, such as an office or factory fire.
  • Errors. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes impacts are so big you need to issue a press release, like in the event of a product contamination or operation mishap.
  • Accusations. This may be against senior management, or even against the business in general—think false advertising, endangering employees, or unsafe products.

What should be included in a crisis communication press release

When a crisis happens, there are several things your company can do in response. 

For starters, define and understand the crisis and its impacts on the company. Hold internal meetings to examine the crisis’ scope and communicate with employees. However, within that initial response it’s also vital to issue the press release as soon as possible. 

Now, a crisis communication press release differs slightly from a typical press release, but a few basic rules still apply, like clear and concise copy and a to-the-point message. 

Overall, remember to refrain from ever going on the defensive or making any sweeping comments that reporters could pick up on and use against you. Convey care and concern, and state that your company is cooperating with all the parties involved.

Keep the press release short, sticking to facts, and indicate more information will be released pending an investigation. That being said, every crisis is unique so there also might be room to make the press release a little longer if you feel the need to provide further clarity. 

Also important to note, like any proper press release, this should also address the answers to the “5 Ws” within the opening paragraph—that’s who, what, when, where, and why. 

  • Who? State who the crisis relates to (the company or a specific employee, for instance).
  • What? Explain what the company knows about the crisis and what’s being done. 
  • When? Specify when the crisis occurred. 
  • Where? Explain the locations that this crisis will affect. 
  • Why? Detail why the company has taken a specific course of action in response. 

Formatting a crisis communication press release

This particular press release should follow the standard press release format, which any media outlet will expect. We’ve outlined this classic layout below for your crisis communication.

  • Title: Convey the specifics of the crisis in as few words as possible. 
  • First paragraph: Answer the 5 Ws to provide a complete overview of the crisis.
  • Second paragraph: Clearly explain what the company is doing in response, even if you’ve yet to take action (perhaps mention launching an investigation).
  • Fourth paragraph: Consider sharing a statement from an official at the company. Reporters will likely ask for a comment to add to coverage, anyway.
  • Fifth paragraph: Round off the end with further relevant information (but keep it brief). 
  • Contact info: Provide a name and email address for the individual handling any press queries (phone number is optional).

Writing a crisis communication press release

The press release regarding your crisis communication will be an official document to help shape a media narrative. With that in mind, stick to the following writing tips: 

  • Write it like a news article. Writing a press release should be approached in the same manner as a journalist writing an article—reasoned and objective.
  • Keep it short. A press release is generally no longer than a page of copy. Avoid writing unnecessary statements or being too explanatory. 
  • Be mindful of language. Avoid hyperbole and be aware of connotations. Phrases that can be interpreted in different ways could do more harm than good. 
  • Show you care. This should be a given, but if you’re trying to mitigate the impact of a crisis then you need to show concern for the issue. 

Crisis communication press release examples

To give you some sense of what’s expected from a crisis communication press release, and what’s often successful, we’ve compiled some examples of responses from companies who experienced a crisis in their business. 

It’s important to note that some of these examples are titled “statements” or “responses,” rather than press releases, but they’re all still serving the same purpose. 

Samsung Confirms Engagement with Consumer Product Safety Commission in Response to Note7 Battery Issue

You might remember the crisis facing Samsung when Galaxy Note7s began exploding, making headlines around the world and causing panic among customers. Here, the byline acts as CTA, urging users to join the exchange program. You can read the full press release here

Capital One Announces Data Security Incident

In 2019, Capital One shared a press release on PR Newswire to confirm a data breach associated with its platforms. While this is much longer, it provides a Q&A that answers any questions customers may have. You can read the full press release here

Saputo Cheese USA Inc. Recalls Certain Cheese Products Due to Potential Contamination of Listeria Monocytogenes

Here’s an example of a company announcing a food product recall for potential contamination. Saputo Cheese makes it clear that issuing the recall is voluntary, and offers clear guidance for concerned customers. You can read the full press release here.

How to send out your crisis communication press release 

When it comes to distributing a crisis communications press release, speed is of the essence.

As a preemptive action, we suggest posting the press release to your website with a link to the page on all social media platforms. Also, sharing a statement on Twitter, Facebook, and other relevant social media is an effective way to distribute your message to reporters quickly. 

In addition, consider sharing the press release via newswire. Many newswire platforms share industry news with a database of targeted outlets, which means the crisis communication would be shared instantly, leading perhaps to more journalists picking up responses and quotes. 

If you receive media inquiries by email, direct them to the press release as well. What’s more, you can also email the press release to your own list of journalists. This does require searching for contact information, but it’s a good way to help clarify details and further shape the narrative. 

Looking for more press release resources, check out our other example guides:

Event press release example

Embargo press release example

CEO announcement press release example

Wrapping up crisis communication press releases

A crisis communication press release is a vital step to quickly minimizing the damage, or mitigating the fallout, of a company crisis. By providing clarity and showing transparency in front of the press, you put yourself in the position to weather the storm gracefully. 
If you’re in the midst of crisis management, and can’t quite see your way through on your own, we’re here to help you. Intelligent Relations can offer much-needed service and support during these challenging times with a guaranteed PR strategy handled by the best.