In case of any accident or crisis, natural or human or technical, the public has the right to know what happened. A holding statement has to provide the media with an initial statement that sets forth the basic facts about the incident and lets people know that you are actively dealing with the situation.
The short statement avoids the tag “no comment,” which is synonymous to irresponsibility. It stops the media from going and finding other sources and filing speculative stories about the organization and the situation. In other words, it calms the storm
A skillfully issued holding statement acknowledges that the company recognizes the need to cooperate with the media and inform the public, without sounding authoritative.
Here is a checklist for writing an effective holding statement:
1. Hurry, and use all possible mediums – Time is of the essence – be quick and try to make the initial response within the first hour. Use all the available communication channels including the Internet, Intranet, and mass notification systems. It’ll help spread the message to a wider audience and faster.
2. Sympathize – Provide some expression of concern/sympathy for what has happened. Lack of concern makes you seem insensitive, rude and selfish. Tell that you are investigating the incident and doing all you can to reduce the chances of another incident and to make any amends.
3. Answer the 5Ws about the crisis accurately – Carefully check all the facts, and double check them before releasing statement in media. Answer : What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? Who was involved? Why did it happen?
4. Content of statement – Make public safety the number one priority and mention the same in your statement. The statement must be concise and written in clear simple language. Don’t use jargon. Explain technical points in simple language.
5. Organize your approachability – Provide a time line for when you will address the media again and how the media can contact the organization for more information. Tell if and when the spokespersons of the company, such as the CEO, will be available to address questions and concerns.
6. Do not have multiple spokespersons – This could lead to contradictory statements and add to the chaos. Have strong internal communication and do not allow anyone apart from the designated spokesperson to speak with media or anyone outside the organization about the mishap.