Whether you’ve had a marketing mishap or a more serious incident that has resulted in a PR crisis, knowing how best to handle it can help you to safeguard your hard-earned reputation. Crisis management experts at the Federation of Small Businesses share their top tips for writing a holding statement and how you can access additional support.
What is a holding statement?
Also known as a press holding statement, this is a short statement you issue in the event of a crisis as the story is breaking. When your business is in the media spotlight suddenly, being able to give a brief account of what your business currently knows and the actions you're taking to face the crisis is crucial. It allows you to respond with speed and credibility as a situation is developing.
When would I need a holding statement?
If your business is facing a PR crisis and you need to make an urgent response, the worry and panic of what to do can set in, potentially causing you to make rushed comments without all the facts. Whilst it may be a quick response, this can sometimes to more harm than good.
“A holding statement is really useful when a story is developing at pace and you may not have all the facts to hand to meet press deadlines or reply to questioning in full,” says Robin Swinbank, crisis management consultant.
Many companies find it useful to have a template to fall back on in case of an emergency, with blanks that you can adapt to the current situation.
What are the benefits of a holding statement?
You might be tempted to say “no comment” to press enquiries, but this can be interpreted as evasive or guilty, so it’s always best to issue a statement. It then buys you time until you have gathered all the facts. "No comment” may also encourage press enquiries to approach third parties for comment, which you want to avoid.
A fast response to a developing situation is an effective way of letting everyone from your customers to your stakeholders know that you’re aware of the issue and are taking steps behind the scenes to investigate and address it. If you’re facing questions from the media, having prepared lines means you’ll avoid any dialogue or Q&A scenarios and can instead put your case forward objectively.
It also gives you and your team clarity on what your official position is, especially if you have customer-facing staff approached for comments. The statement allows everyone in your business to demonstrate that you’re cooperative, open and transparent before you issue a more detailed statement at an appropriate time.
Top tips for writing a holding statement
- If there is a victim of the story, be sure to express sympathy to them and their family before any other comment.
- Tell the story as best you can in the opening paragraph and the remaining information in descending order.
- Answer the basics: who, what, when, where, why?
- Use plain English – avoid any jargon, technical terms, or scientific or legal phrases that may need further explanation.
- Be as brief as possible whilst also being careful with your wording.
- Get support from a crisis management specialist who can guide you through the correct processes and help you handle enquiries.
Of course, when dealing with a PR crisis, it’s always best to have a specialist on your side to guide you through the correct processes.