How to write a news release for a crisis event is one of those questions that can cause a fight among public relations professionals, corporate executives, and anyone tasked with some part of the information chain during a crisis.
I think it’s time to flip the script. What if you asked, “What outcome do we want from a crisis communications news release?” instead of asking “How to write a news release?”
That’s what happened when the SituationHub.com crisis communications software was developed, which is why one of the goals of the app is to automatically write a news release in 3 to 5 minutes for most situations where there is breaking news.
Here’s what the SituationHub team considered and what you should consider.
The desired outcome of a crisis communications news release during a break news situation should include the following:
- When the media receives your statement, it should be within minutes of the situation going public and easy for them to copy and paste into their news story.
- When your employees see your statement, it should be easy for them to comprehend.
- When the public sees your statement, it should be factual and believable, and void of fluff.
So, if those are your outcomes, you should write your news release with three concepts in mind. Those include:
- No fluff
If fast, factual and no fluff become your goal, then you must evaluate if your traditional approach to a crisis communications news release runs counter to those goals.
Most traditional news releases go through this process:
- Situation happens
- Information filters down to the news release writer
- Writer begins to artfully draft prose
- Writer edits and rewrites their prose
- Writer forwards draft to executive team
- Executive teams makes edits and sends the draft back to the writer
- Writer resents the edits, but makes them, then struggles with second draft
- Second draft often approved, but sometimes a third draft is requested
- Final draft sent to media and other stakeholders
Unfortunately, the traditional approach to writing a crisis communications news release during breaking news can take more than 3 hours for most companies or organizations because the writing and approval process takes too long.
How do you fix this?
Here are six secrets found in SituationHub:
- Write without prose.
- Write in short, staccato sentences.
- Get to the facts: Who, what, when, where, why, how?
- Don’t speculate on the how or why.
- Remove compound sentences and sentences with commas to increase comprehension and to speed approval.
- During approval, don’t ask, “Give me thoughts on this?” Instead ask, “Are the facts here true or false?”
Next, think about your audience.
When the media receives your traditional statement, do they have to unpack the prose to get to the who, what, when, where, why and how? Have you buried the lead beneath a pile of corporate B.S.? Do the media get the facts wrong because you’ve buried them in prose, fluff and B.S.?
Give the media:
- What they want
- At the speed they want it
- In the format in which they craft their news story
…and you will achieve your goal of the perfect outcome, i.e. the media will take what you write and use the vast majority of it word-for-word, hence letting you control the edit of the news report.
And that’s how to write a news release for a crisis event.
If you could use more help preparing public statements, schedule a complimentary, confidential call with me https://calendly.com/braud/15min
Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”
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