The Crucial Role of Holding Statements

Holding statements are indispensable in crisis management. They offer an immediate response, buying time for gathering facts and formulating a thorough strategy. By setting the tone and framing the issue, they help maintain control of the narrative. Importantly, they demonstrate transparency and empathy, fostering trust with stakeholders.

In today’s world, companies face an ever-present risk of encountering crises that can jeopardize their reputation and ability to operate. Whether it’s a cybersecurity breach, a natural disaster, or any other unforeseen event, how organizations respond to crises can significantly impact their ability to mitigate damage and regain trust. One of the key components of an effective crisis management program is the development and utilization of holding statements to quickly respond when a crisis strikes.

What Is a Holding Statement?

A holding statement serves as a concise pre-approved messaging issued by an organization in the initial stages of a crisis. Its purpose is to acknowledge the situation, express empathy, and assure stakeholders that the organization is actively addressing the issue. However, it’s essential to recognize that a holding statement is not intended to provide extensive details or definitive answers. Instead, it serves as a temporary communication tool to allow time for the organization to gather information and formulate a response based on known facts and actual confirmed events.

The Importance of Holding Statements

Timely Response: In a crisis, every minute counts. Issuing a holding statement promptly demonstrates that the organization is proactive, transparent, and committed to addressing the situation head-on.

Maintaining Control: Without a holding statement, rumors can quickly spiral out of control, leading to further confusion and panic. A well-crafted holding statement allows the organization to assert control over the narrative and steer the conversation in a constructive direction.

Building Trust and Credibility: Crises are a test of trust. A well-crafted holding statement that acknowledges the seriousness of the situation and outlines the organization’s commitment to resolution can go a long way toward preserving trust and credibility.

Managing Stakeholder Expectations: During a crisis, internal and external stakeholders are understandably anxious and seeking answers. A holding statement clarifies the organization’s actions, timelines for updates, and expectations for ongoing communication.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance: In certain industries, legal and regulatory requirements govern how organizations must communicate during a crisis. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal liabilities and reputational damage. A holding statement helps ensure the organization meets its obligations while minimizing legal risks.

How To Best Integrate Holding Statements Into Your Existing Comprehensive Resiliency Program

If you follow these guidelines, it will significantly enhance your ability to respond to crises proactively and reduce the chaos generated during the first hours of a crisis.

  1. Identify who the message approvers are when releasing internal and external communications and ensure that all holding statements are pre-approved and OK to send. Establish Parameters with the approval stakeholders on what parameters can be ‘edited’ before sending. For most holding statements, this would be limited to things like incident type, date/time, known impact, and follow-up time.
  2. Partner with Risk Management to ensure that any new threats and risks are incorporated into the Holding statement framework.
  3. Establish a matrix that identifies the threats and risks, the approved message, how the message would be sent (email, voice, alert system, etc.), and importantly, who would be sending the message.
  4. Incorporate the matrix into existing resiliency documentation and ensure an assigned owner can update and review regularly or as the threat landscape shifts.
  5. Every exercise and incident activation should be used as an opportunity to develop new or update existing Holding statements.
Crafting an Effective Holding Statement

When drafting a holding statement, it’s essential to strike the right balance between transparency, empathy, and discretion. Here are four principles to keep in mind:

  • Be brief and to the point.
  • Express empathy and concern.
  • Promise action.
  • Avoid speculation.

Tip: It can be beneficial for holding statements to contain links to a corporate FAQ or “about us” page. This gives e.g. media access to factual information about the company. Media can use it to fill space until further details about the incident itself become available to them.

In an unpredictable world, preparation and planning are vital to protect an organization’s operations. By including holding statements as a component of a crisis management program, organizations can navigate challenging situations and protect their reputation. A well-executed holding statement demonstrates leadership, transparency, and a commitment to addressing the needs of stakeholders, laying the groundwork for a successful response to any crisis.

Risk Resiliency has been supporting organizations with their crisis communications needs for over a decade. If you need help or advice on how best to right-size your resiliency program and the integration of crisis communications, please do not hesitate to drop us an email or give us a call to discuss how we can leverage our expertise to assist your business.