How to Write a Crisis Press Release (+ Template & Examples) (2024)

A crisis press release is a public relations (PR) tool used to respond to a negative situation. It explains how a business plans to mitigate damage or serve affected individuals. To write one, outline the crisis and your concerns, decide how to respond, and identify your target audience. Then, write a press release that stops speculation through transparent communication and establishes a central source of information in your company.

When faced with a crisis, time is often a critical factor. To get your message out quickly, have your press release written and distributed as fast as possible by the media professionals at eReleases.

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 (especially if you’re not able to discuss the crisis with others directly), think about how it may affect various stakeholders by asking, “What risk or concern does this crisis pose to my audience members?” 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, and investors, 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. Decide How Your Business Will Respond

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. Still, 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 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. Additionally, helping to fund counselors can also be beneficial.

To define your response, answer the following questions:

  • Was your company at fault? If so, your response must be transparent and include recognition of fault without defensiveness. People need to know you are taking responsibility. Otherwise, it can make people feel uneasy about the future and angry at your company.
  • What tone should your company use? The tone you use to respond to a crisis matters. If the crisis was your fault, a humble but competent tone and sincere, no-excuses apology is recommended. People need to know you are sorry but are still able to enact solutions. On the other hand, a hopeful tone may be appropriate if the company has a philanthropic resolution to announce in response to a natural disaster or health crisis.
  • How can you help those impacted? During a crisis, trust strengthens your relationship with your audience. But failed promises erode trust. As such, your stated solution to the crisis must be realistic and achievable. Look at your company’s resources (including those within your company and those your company has access to) to define what solution(s) you can realistically achieve.
  • How can you reassure those impacted? Your response should include the concrete and proactive steps your business will take to mitigate the damage. It should also reassure your audience that this will not happen again (if the crisis was the company’s fault) or clearly convey that hope is on its way (in the case of a natural or community disaster, for example).

3. Identify the 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.

To define your audience, ask the following questions:

  • Who is affected? If your town has experienced a natural disaster, those affected might be your community. If you experienced a data breach of employee information, your employees might be your primary audience. But remember, your customers will also want to know how you plan to prevent this from happening to them. Think of not just the primary people affected but those affected in more roundabout ways.
  • What is their relationship with my business? Those affected may be employees, customers, investors, or local community members. These individuals may also have multiple roles. For example, an employee or board member may also be an investor or a customer. They could have various concerns about the crisis that needs to be addressed.
  • Why do they want to hear from your company? Answer this question by completing the following statement: “My audience wants to hear from my company about this crisis because….” Additionally, define why your press release will be valuable to your audience.
  • What do they want to hear from your company? With the who, what, and why identified above, and in light of the solutions your company can offer, you should clearly understand what they want to hear in your crisis press release. For example, customers or employees affected by a data breach will want to know what steps you’ll take to safeguard their data going forward. They may be looking for additional peace of mind, such as free membership in a credit or identity monitoring program.

4. Write Your Press Release

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:

How to Write a Crisis Press Release (+ Template & Examples) (1)


Free Press Release Template

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When you’re ready to distribute your press release, use our #1 recommended press release distribution service for small businesses: EIN Presswire, starting under $100.

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Read our article for step-by-step instructions on how to format a press release. The head of the press release should include a logo, release date, date and place stamp, contact information, a headline, and a subheader (optional). This will be followed by your lead and body paragraphs, relevant quotes, links, a boilerplate, a final note or call to action (CTA), and any multimedia (e.g., images, videos, graphics, and so on).

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.

Does your crisis press release need to be longer than 500 words? Distribute it through EIN Presswire. The basic plan allows for up to 700-word press releases, and the highest tier plan goes up to 2,500 words.

5. Distribute Your Press Statement

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 maximum coverage, it’s best to use a press release distribution service like EIN Presswire. Not only will it reach a wide audience, but you can also choose target audiences by industry and location.

Alternatively, if you want professional help writing and editing your press release, we recommend eReleases. They offer professional press release writing and proofing as a standalone product. If you use eReleases for distribution, your story will be distributed across the largest network of U.S.-based journalists and media outlets. This includes targeted lists and a direct-to-journalist email, depending on your chosen plan or options.

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:

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How to Write a Crisis Press Release (+ Template & Examples) (4)

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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.

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

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Wine To Water crisis management press release (Source: PR Cision)

Crisis press releases aren’t just used to mitigate corporate scandals or mistakes. In this case, Water To Wine 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

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Crisis management press release example for a product recall (Source: Johnson & Johnson)

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 800 number 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

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A crisis media announcement example from a cybersecurity attack (Source: GlobeNewswire)

This is another excellent example of a crisis communication press release issued proactively to avert speculation on behalf of customers, investors, and the media. JBS USA experienced a cybersecurity attack and issued a press release explaining how their cybersecurity response was enacted. It included the 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a crisis in PR?

A public relations or 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. Crises can also come in external forms, such as natural disasters or emergencies, unexpected energy disruptions, flooding, fire, and so on.

Why are press releases important in a crisis?

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.

What is crisis management in PR?

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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You might also like…

  • Read our list of the best press release writing services to help you with your corporate PR efforts.
  • Not sure that a crisis press release is what you need? Check out over a dozen press release examples of all types and find out why they work.
  • See what makes a good press release before you send your announcement to the media.
How to Write a Crisis Press Release (+ Template & Examples) (2024)
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