Crisis Comms: The Holding Statement

Ask a PR, social media or ‘comms person’ what’s the first thing they should do in a crisis and many will cite the ‘holding statement’ as an example of good practice.

And it is.

For about 20 minutes.

It was never intended to be anything more than that.

As the hours tick by, the number of casualties goes up and details emerge it is incumbent upon you, and whoever it is you represent, to go much further.

Not because it’s ‘good PR’ or ‘right for the business’ but simply because it is morally the right thing to do.

HR, legal and the tired old ex hack who takes a consultancy fee but spends half his time on the golf course might turn pale at the thought of this; but in a crisis, doing and saying what’s morally right matters the most.

That holding statement buys you a bit of time, and nothing more.

In a crisis, your job is not to issue a statement and lock things down.

Your job is to deal with questions. There will be many and they will be emotionally charged.

You should put someone up. Face an interview. You don’t need to answer the questions or get into detail if you’re unable to right now but you should stand there and take them and treat the situation with the respect it deserves.

People need to see the effect this is having on you. They need to be able to ask questions and make points and it will benefit you if you take these questions, craft responses and come back with updates and answers. It is not a time to hide. And you must not let the legal team, HR or ‘crisis protocol’ stop you from demonstrating your ultimate loyalty, which is to your fellow human beings.

Too often I see businesses and agencies representing them changing from friendly and social to defensive, cold and corporate, hiding behind bland statements issued and then updated once in 12 hours.

You were my friend yesterday.

You need to be my friend again today. More than ever.