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A Guide to Press Release Writing for Crisis Management
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By: Johan de Leon
In this article you will learn to write an effective and targeted press release as part of a crisis management strategy and for damage control. Damage control press releases are the key tool a company has in crisis management situations to turn a nightmarish incident to its advantage. A crisis situation, whether a product recall or consumer lawsuit; is hectic and demanding. Small companies, un-used to publicity and the press’ watchful eyes bunker down and hope it blows over, but it’s they who have the most to lose – clients, customers, brand integrity, and in lawsuits: capital.

For as long as there have been press releases, there have been damage control press releases. Ivy Lee, the founding father of public relations, issued the first press release after a Pennsylvania Railroad accident in 1906, when the company was under fire for being secretive and denying information. Fearing this method of crisis management would exacerbate a volatile situation, Lee notified the press of the accident via press release: detailing the events, future preventive actions, and escorting reporters to the scene.

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For damage control the press release is the most valuable crisis communications tool a company has to communicate with the press, the public and shareholders.

Many small companies don’t have a PR firm, or the budget, and don’t get their point of view out before speculation and innuendo begins. If a small business can’t afford to hire a PR company for damage control, better that company craft a well-written and direct damage control press release. Here are guidelines to keep in mind when writing your press release.

Counteract negative publicity
A damage control press release’s essential value to your company is to prevent negative publicity from damaging the image of a firm, its brand identity, and public image. In the case of a lawsuit filed against your company, issue a press release detailing information that supports your claims, and your company’s position.
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Demonstrate concern
Demonstrate concern for public safety. A company may take a hit in short-term profits (as in a one-time product recall), but allowing an unsavory situation to drag will be detrimental in the long term, lose you previously loyal customers, weaken team morale, and sully your brand’s public image. Maintain an image of propriety, not indifference or hostility, towards the situation. The gravity of your language must reflect an appropriate level of concern for your customers.

Provide accurate information
Take responsibility for whatever mistakes you have made. The temptation to fabricate details or outright deny claims possibly true can be large, and seemingly justifiable. It isn’t necessary to lie – refrain from commenting a sensitive topic that could have legal implications.

Maintain a positive image
End on a high note, emphasizing other positive aspects of your business. Companies who turn a sour situation to their benefit can win back the trust of customers affected, as well as gain new customers.

Ensure Legality
Before releasing your damage control press release, consult your lawyer. Wording is important: a misplaced or poorly thought phrase could be tacit acceptance of guilt or admittance of liability.

Effective crisis management plans require pro-active movement by an organization. Strike fast, get your story out, and show concern to minimize damage and avoid costly damage to your reputation.

Johan De Leon is an experienced internet marketing executive specializing in online marketing, CRM and business development.
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