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11 examples of holding statements for crisis comms

by Jamie Bell No Comments

When a crisis breaks out, one of the very first things that you need to do is to issue a holding statement (internally and externally). If company operations are disrupted, customers will want to know how they will impacted. Employees may be concerned and will want answers. The media might be knocking on your door and blowing up your inbox.

All of these “audiences” will want information before you even has a chance to assess the situation and begin communicating. That’s where a holding statement comes in.

What is the definition of a holding statement?

A holding statement is a pre-prepared, fill-in-the-blank template that allows you to issue a statement in as little time as possible. It buys the communications and crisis management team time to better understand the situation, collect the facts, and ultimately issue something more detailed. It also helps stop the rumor mill before it starts.

Holding statements need to be issued as soon as possible; some studies suggest that companies have just 15 minutes to respond once a crisis breaks out. The key is to prepare these holding statements in advance, so they can be quickly adapted to cover the situation at hand.

The format and specifics of each holding statement will differ depending upon your industry, your company, and the type or level of crisis you are dealing with.

Best practices for writing holding statements

We recommend having a few generic holding statements (you can use ours below) on hand for any given situation. Ideally, though, you’ll craft a crisis communications plan and holding statements that are specifically prepared for your business. We recommend working with your leadership team and stakeholders to identify the top 10 risks/potential crises at your particular organization, and form your crisis communications plan and write specific holding statements based on that.

(Need a template for your complete crisis comms plan? We’ve got one you can download here!)

A good guiding principle is to “act fast, but think carefully.” You want to move quickly to publish your side of the story before unnecessary public relations damage is done just because of a communications delay. You also want to be seen as responsive, empathetic, efficient, and aware of the gravity of the situation; however, it’s better to delay a statement by a few minutes than to rush out a poorly-crafted comment that could backfire or make the situation worse.

With holding statements, you should only include definitive facts and not speculative details; verify
everything you say. Make sure that the statement is also authentic and appropriate for the situation at hand. 

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 OR details on when further updates may occur

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)

11 examples of holding statements


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – GENERIC

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.


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – GENERIC 2

At approximately [time] there was what is currently being investigated as a [incident] at [location]. We are working to determine [damage, injuries, etc.]. At this time, we have confirmed that [General information that is for certain. Delete if no confirmed info is available.]

The safety and well-being of our employees, contractors, and neighbors are our first priority. [Expression of compassion/concern if appropriate]. As more information is available we will be providing updates through [web site address] and regular media briefings.

Note for Media: Media briefings will be held at [location] at [time – specific time, or general, i.e., every hour on the hour, etc.].


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – DELAY, DAMAGE, OR RECALL

Yesterday, we learned that several shipments of our [product] have been [contaminated/damaged/delayed/etc.] due to [specify reason if there is one].

We are working around-the-clock with our [producers/distributors/quality control team/safety inspectors/ transportation providers] and internal teams to ensure your orders/shipments are fulfilled in the coming [provide timeline if possible].

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you, and are working tirelessly to ensure this issue doesn’t happen again.

Should you have any questions, feel free to contact me at ____@company.com.


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – TECHNICAL ISSUE/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 at [website] and on Twitter. 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 1-800-123-4567.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you, and are working tirelessly to ensure this issue doesn’t happen again.


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – OFFENSIVE STATEMENT OR ACTION BY EMPLOYEE

Accusation only:
We are saddened by the recent allegations surrounding the [incident/accusation] with/against [employee]. [Company] is committed to being a safe and inclusive workplace for all. We’re still assessing the situation and these accusations. We want to understand what happened, and our next step will be to work with our [people operations/human resources/executive/legal] team(s) to determine the best course of action. In the meantime, we would like to offer our sincerest apologies to all of those affected or upset by these accusations.

Confirmed evidence:
The viewpoints expressed by this employee do not represent [company’s] values at all, and we empathize with those hurt, upset, and disturbed by the employee’s [words/actions]. We emphatically denounce what [employee] has [said/done], and as a result, have made the decision that we can no longer [represent/employ/collaborate/partner with] [employee]. We are determined to provide a safe and inclusive work environment at [company] and are working with our [people operations/human resources/executive/legal] team(s) to determine the best course of action. Again, we wholeheartedly apologize to [person/people] affected.


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – LAWSUIT

We cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but [company] is committed to [statement that does not divulge information or opinion about lawsuit].


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – WORKPLACE INJURY

We are deeply saddened to confirm that [either individual’s name, or just “one of our colleagues/clients/customers/crew”] 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.

An investigation has been launched and we are fully cooperating with authorities. As of [time], we have determined that we have / will / are going to [ postpone/shut down/limit/maintain] the [site/business/factory/office] until the conclusion of the investigation. 

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 share more information as it is released to us and provide an update about this incident on our website and social media channels at [date and time].


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – ACCIDENTAL DEATH

We are heartbroken and devastated by the passing of our treasured colleague, [Individual’s name], after an accident which occurred at [location] in [city/region] during the [short description of circumstance].

“[Individual’s name] is beloved by all who worked with him/her during an impressive [__]-year career. I, along with [Individual’s name]’s coworkers and the entire [Company] team, wish to express our deepest condolences and our heartfelt love and support to [Individual’s name]’s family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.

We have no further details but are working closely with investigators as they review the incident. We will not rest until the investigation is concluded and preventative measures can be put into place, if needed. We will be providing updates as they are released to us. 

We ask that you please respect the highly sensitive nature of this incident for our employees and the family of [Individual’s name] and refer any queries directly to our media relations team.

MEDIA CONTACT
Name:
Phone:
Email:


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – ACCIDENTAL DEATH, NO IDENTIFICATION

We are heartbroken, devastated, and angry by the passing of [one of our colleagues/clients/customers/crewmembers] this morning. This is a terribly tragic accident and our deepest sympathies go out to the employee’s family and friends.

Company policy prohibits me from releasing the employee’s name without the family’s consent, but I can confirm that he/she was employed by [Company] for [__] years.

His/or her position with the company at the time of the accident was within our [department] department. Our number one priority at this time is safety. It’s critical that we determine how this accident occurred so we can take steps to prevent something like this from happening again.

Our goal is to return every customer and employee home safely every day. At this time, we have no further details but are working closely with investigators as they review the incident. We will not rest until the investigation is concluded and preventative measures can be put into place, if needed. We will be providing updates as they are released to us. 

We ask that you please respect the highly sensitive nature of this incident for our employees and the family of [Individual’s name] and refer any queries directly to our media relations team.


HOLDING STATEMENT – OFFENSIVE MARKETING CAMPAIGN

We were surprised by some of the responses to our [marketing campaign description.] In retrospect, it’s clear that many people were [upset/offended/frustrated/etc.]. This was in no way our intention. We made a poor choice in [description of offense]. We sincerely apologize for our misjudgment and deeply regret airing the insensitive ad. In the future, we’ll be much more careful about creating campaigns and messages that are more consistent with our company’s values and mission.


HOLDING STATEMENT EXAMPLE – CUSTOMER SERVICE ISSUE

We are deeply committed to serving our customers, and know that we have not lived up to that commitment. We are dedicated to making things right and have charted a course of action to both 1.) make amends as best we can and 2.) ensure this kind of situation never happens again. There is nothing more important than for us to ensure every customer has the very best experience with us from this day forward. That’s why we’ve already taken the following actions:

  • [Action 1]
  • [Action 2]
  • [Action 3]

We encourage any customer with concerns about their accounts or their continued relationship with [Company Name] to call or email us, 24/7, at 222-222-2222.


Download our full Crisis Communications Plan template (and example) here

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