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How to write a holding statement in a Public Relations crisis

Knowing how to write a quick holding statement is a key success factor in public relations and crisis communications. So, what is a holding statement and how is it different from the traditional press release?

A holding statement is the initial brief announcement that summarizes the basic facts about an incident or PR crisis situation, as the story is breaking.

As the name implies, a holding statement helps to buy time, pending when full details are available. It keeps the anxious public informed and also assures them that the matter is being urgently addressed. It also helps stop the rumor mill before it spreads.

How soon should you send a holding statement?

Holding statements need to be issued as soon as possible; some studies suggest that companies have less than 15 minutes to respond once a public relations crisis breaks out.

The key is to prepare holding statements templates in advance, so they can be quickly adapted to cover any situation at hand. Here’s what you need to know about how to write a holding statement:

Elements of a good holding statement

a holding statement

The holding statement should always include:

  • A factual headline
  • The date and time
  • The location of the incident
  • Basic details that have been confirmed
  • When the company was made aware of the issue
  • Actions your organization is taking that you are willing to make public
  • An expression of compassion or empathy (if appropriate)
  • Contact details
  • Indication on when further updates would be provided
The don’ts of a holding statement

a holding statement

It should never include:

  • Details that are unconfirmed or uncertain
  • Any kind of speculation
  • A response to unsubstantiated rumours
  • Statements of blame or finger-pointing
  • Names of victims in the case of death (without the family’s permission)
Examples of holding statements

Here are 3 examples of holding statements

Example 1:
Generic holding statement

We have recently been informed that a [what happened] at [location] involving [who] occurred today at [time]. The incident is under investigation and more information is forthcoming.

Example 2
Holding statement on a technical issue or outage

This afternoon, we were made aware of a technical issue/outage that is affecting our [specify which service or product].

This [issue] took place [date and time] and affected [this group of individuals]. We apologize that we are not able to provide you with [service or product] at the moment. Our technicians are working diligently to get our operations to full functionality as soon as possible.

We will continue to update you on our progress in resolving this matter. We have created a dedicated customer service line to address any inquiries related to this issue. We ask that you please be patient with our customer support team as they work to help address your concerns/needs. The support team can be reached at …..

Example 3
Holding statement on workplace injury

We are deeply saddened to confirm that [either individual’s name, or just “one of our colleagues] was injured at [location] in [city/town] earlier this morning. They are currently at [hospital location] receiving medical treatment. We are in contact with their family and are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time.

Over our [___]-year history, we have maintained an excellent safety record. We will be reviewing our procedures and will put in place any recommendations from the authorities to ensure this does not happen again.

We will be providing further update about this incident.

Holding statement in summary

a holding statement

With a holding statement, you are able  to move quickly to publish your side of the story before unnecessary public relations damage is done just because of a communication delay.

You also want to be seen as responsive, empathetic, efficient, and aware of the gravity of the situation. That’s the power of a holding statement in public relations and crisis communications.

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