A crisis press release is a public relations (PR) tool used to respond to a potentially negative situation. This could be something internal, like a data breach or employee misstep, or in response to external crises like natural disasters, economic issues, industry-related topics, and so on. We outline how to write a crisis press release below, from what to include to how your business plans to mitigate damage, avoid negative press, and serve affected individuals.
Ready to take control of the narrative? Follow the five steps below to write and distribute a crisis communications press release:
1. Outline the Crisis & PR Concerns
Before writing your crisis press release, take some time to fully outline the situation at hand. Consider which aspects and potential resolutions are within your control or outside of it. Then, talk to stakeholders (employees, vendors, customers, and so on) who can shed further light on the crisis, including concerns about potential negative impacts on them or your business.
In addition, think about how it might affect each or any of these various stakeholders and others, such as the public. Doing so can help you define the entire crisis from multiple perspectives—including their risks and concerns—to understand the full extent of what you must address in your press release.
If your audience includes customers, employees, investors, and the public, each group may view the crisis or be impacted by it differently. For example, your human resources (HR) people may think a data breach of employee information is a crisis because it will keep people from feeling safe working for you.
Meanwhile, your financial and IT teams may think the same situation is a crisis because they may be sued for allowing the information to be shared without authorization. Your customers or investors may have other reasons as to why your breach poses a risk or creates a concern for them.
2. Define Your Business Response
Once you know what the situation is and how it might affect your business, employees, and others, draft a communication plan that explains how your business plans to respond to the crisis. Your job here is to identify solutions that can resolve the situation, calm concerns, and mitigate risks. It also needs to be one you can realistically implement.
For example, if your town has experienced a natural disaster, you may not be able to rebuild the entire town, but you can raise funds to donate to relief efforts. Contributing to organizations restoring what was lost may not solve all problems (like loss of life), but it can help address the solvable risks and concerns.
But don’t necessarily shy away from problems that are not solvable, either. In the case of loss of life, for example, while we can’t stop the grief, expressing empathy can mean comfort to a hurting community. Providing funding for counseling or other services can also be beneficial.
3. Identify Your Target Audience
With a clear picture of the crisis itself, its potential impacts, and a remediation plan, it’s time to determine which target audience your press release needs to reach. This could be people looking to your company to solve it (in the case of a data breach, for example) or people who could use help from your company (in the case of a natural disaster, for example).
Defining the target audience will help you speak directly to their needs, ensuring more reads and engagement for the stories journalists run around your release. Plus, journalists are more likely to cover a story their audiences value or one that impacts them most.
4. Format & Write Your Crisis Press Release (Free Download)
Now that you’ve defined the crisis, your company’s response, and the story’s audience, use this information to write your media announcement. The standard press release format provides a good framework for writing your statement.
Download our free press release template below. To use it in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, save a copy to your device or drive. Or use the PDF version as a guide to format your own document.
What to Include in a Crisis Press Release
Read our article for step-by-step instructions on how to format a press release. It showcases how to format your press release visually and outlines what each section is for, and what it should include. At a minimum, you’ll want:
- A header with your logo, the release date of your announcement, and your contact information
- A headline and subheading
- The lead paragraph of your story with the who, what, when, why, and where answered in one to two sentences
- The body of your press release, with paragraphs that support the headline and lead with supplemental information
- Multimedia (images, an embedded video news release, graphics, charts, and so on)
- Your press release boilerplate
- A final call to action (where to learn more or what to do next)
- A media contact and link to your press kit
As you write, convey three key concepts succinctly: a definition of the crisis, the concrete actions you will take, and what you want readers to do with the news you provide. For example, if you’re offering assistance after a natural disaster, there should be instructions for a website where people can apply for help or a person to contact.
If you’re remediating a crisis for which your company is at fault, like a product recall, the reader should know how to return or dispose of the item, who to contact, and where to go for more information, assistance, or compensation. Be transparent and humble, and do not include defensive statements, or hide anything. In all crises, remain fact-based but reassuring and empathetic.
Generally, press release best practices suggest your story should be no more than 500 words in total. However, if you offer multiple solutions or need to include more detail, don’t be afraid to exceed this guideline in the case of a crisis management situation. Alternatively, you can add a call to action redirecting readers to get more information from a landing page on your website or your internal media contact.
The last thing you want to do in a crisis management press release is to make a mistake. See what the most common press release mistakes are, and how to avoid them.
5. Distribute Your Announcement to the Media
Once you have written your press release, you need to distribute it so it reaches your target audience. To do so, read our step-by-step guide on how to send a press release.
For max reach at a low cost, use EIN Presswire. You’ll reach a wide audience and you can choose target audiences by industry and location.
If you want to turn writing and distribution over to media experts, go with eReleases or Newswire. Your release will be written by experienced PR pros, ensuring all the bases are covered and that your story is professionally edited so it’s in the best shape to avoid negative coverage (and even bring positive PR to your brand).
Best Distribution Services for Crisis Media Communications at a Glance
To save you time researching various press release distribution services, here are the top three options to consider:
Press Release Service
Small businesses needing an affordable press release distribution option that reaches all the major news sites
Those wanting the widest reach among U.S. journalists and media outlets
Small businesses wanting media experts to write their press releases
Those wanting precise targeting to reach specific audiences
Brands needing detailed analytics to assess reach and performance
Plans Starting From
Embed Media & Links
Once you’ve distributed your press release, don’t forget to track its performance. Doing so can help you gauge the impact your release has. If you don’t experience the results you wish, your analytics reports can guide you on how to retarget for better traction.
For more ways to boost your publicity, read our full list of press release distribution tips.
Did you know? Press release statistics show that journalists turn to press releases as the source of truth. Second only behind newswires themselves, one in five journalists consider press releases the most trustworthy sources of info.
Crisis Press Release Examples
A crisis can take many forms, from product recalls and data breaches to natural disasters, like the COVID-19 pandemic, flooding, fires, and more. Regardless of the exact situation at hand, your announcement should provide transparent information, a plan for mitigation, and an empathetic tone that does not deflect fault (if the company was at fault).
Here are three crisis press release examples small businesses can learn from:
1. Natural Disaster or Emergency Press Release
Wine To Water’s emergency relief effort in Jackson, Mississippi
Crisis press releases aren’t just used to mitigate corporate scandals or mistakes. In this case, Wine To Water issued a crisis press release to announce a response to a natural disaster or emergency caused by flooding in Jackson, Mississippi. The release further draws attention by including the celebrity status of the company’s owner, actor Jason Mamoa.
In addition to providing clean, safe drinking water, Mamoa’s company (Mananalu) provided the water in resealable, reusable cans, providing yet another angle to appeal to specific audiences. A quote from Mananalu’s CEO is included as well.
2. Product Recall Press Release Example
Johnson & Johnson sunscreen product recall press release example
This is a great example of a proactive crisis press release produced by a company in conjunction with a voluntary product recall. Rather than waiting and hoping nothing negative would occur, they took the products off the market after their internal testing showed small amounts of a cancerous chemical in their aerosol sunscreen.
Along with the immediate product recall, the company also announced an investigation is underway to determine the cause. Readers are advised of the potential adverse effects of the chemical and to discard the products. The company also includes the number 800 to call and request a refund, along with an invitation to contact its Consumer Care Center 24/7 with any questions. In addition, forms are provided if someone needs to report an adverse effect from the product.
3. Data Breach Press Release Example
JBS USA cybersecurity attack press release example
This is another excellent example of a crisis communication press release issued proactively to avert speculation on behalf of customers, investors, or the media. JBS USA experienced a cybersecurity attack and issued a press release explaining how their cybersecurity response was enacted. It included immediate suspension of affected systems, notification of authorities, and bringing all resources to bear to resolve the situation.
To address audience concerns, the PR crisis management communique notes that no data has been compromised. It also states that as they continue to resolve the issue, it may cause slowdowns for some customers and suppliers. The release effectively addresses the concerns of multiple stakeholders, including explaining the cause of any continued impacts and offering a media contact.
4. Business Donation to Natural Disaster Relief Press Release Example
Press releases can be issued in response to external factors far beyond the control of any business. In this example, Panda Express demonstrates empathy, compassion, and its support of those affected by the wildfires in Hawaii. It also promotes additional philanthropy by offering to match donations submitted through the Panda Cares Foundation.
Need more inspiration? Check out our roundup of the best press release examples and find out what makes each one effective.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A public relations (PR) crisis can occur in many forms. It can result from a company scandal, such as an employee or company officer being found committing fraud, negligence, or theft. Nearly every day, we hear about data breaches and cybersecurity PR crises due to the proliferation of hackers and cybercriminals. Crisis can also come in external forms, such as natural disasters or emergencies, unexpected energy disruptions, flooding, fire, and so on.
Press releases are a core communication tool for PR crisis management. They allow your business to generate positive publicity through proactive endeavors, like responding to a natural disaster, recalling a product, or providing warranty or replacement services. They are also the best means to respond to negative publicity, stop speculation, provide transparent communication of the facts, and establish an official corporate contact.
Public relations, or PR, crisis management refers to communication surrounding an internal or external issue that has the potential to affect a business or its stakeholders negatively. It extends beyond press releases to encompass all company communication concerning the situation. It covers the acknowledgment of a crisis, proffered solutions, wrap-up after the crisis is over, and the implemented mitigation plans.
A crisis management press release is a type of press release organizations send to target audiences (usually journalists) with communication surrounding an internal or natural crisis. They offer accurate, transparent information, reassure stakeholders, issue an apology (if necessary), and communicate a mitigation plan. All these can help your company build positive publicity or counter negative press to protect and grow your brand.
If you need help quickly writing a press release as part of a crisis management plan, consider eReleases. You can simply submit your notes and website for editor reference or collaborate with an editor over the phone, via chat, or email to go over further details, and a seasoned media expert will write your release. Visit eReleases to get started.