Should You Use a Written Statement or a Video Statement for Crisis Communications?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In crisis communications many people are afraid to put a media spokesperson in front of the media for an interview or news conference. Often a company in crisis will ask, “Is it okay if we just issue a written statement? Do we have to do a news conference?” At the same time, corporate lawyers often write a statement and distribute it to the media, rather than having a news conference.

So which do you think is better? Should you use a written statement or an oral statement for crisis communications? And, as an option, can you issue a video statement?

First, recognize that written statements often feel canned. They used phrases such as, “Safety is our top priority,” even though the event is clearly an indication that safety was never the top priority.

Here are a few facts about written statements:

  • Written statements often feel cold, as though you are saying the absolute minimum.
  • Written statements often make it appear you are hiding the facts and the truth in a crisis.
  • Written statements often can be misinterpreted, because they lack the intonation of a voice.

When we speak, the audience can hear empathy, caring, and concern in our voice. For that reason, the spoken word is more powerful than the written word. Add to that the visual empathy and concern seen through facial expressions, and it should be a no brainer that any statement in which we hear a voice and see a human face is vastly more effective for crisis communications than a written statement.

Social media, Facebook Live, YouTube, YouTube Live, Twitter, Periscope and many other platforms make it easier than ever to record, publish, and share a statement during a crisis.

In the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, Step 3 is the concept of having 100 or more pre-written statements ready to use at a moments notice. (If you are not familiar with the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, sign up for our free 5-video course.) The pre-written statements should all be written for oral delivery. This means each statement is ready to be recorded and published to your crisis communications website or to your favorite social media platform.

You should note, that successfully recording a video or using a live social media video platform requires practice. In Step 4 of the 5 Steps, we emphasize the importance of media training. The same skills used to conduct an effective news conference can be used to record a video.

Does a video statement absolve you of your responsibility to conduct a news conference? No, it shouldn’t. In a crisis you should conduct interviews and/or news conferences. You should be prepared to successfully answer questions from the media.

However, if your organization tends to avoid news conferences in favor of printed statements, a video statement is an effective way to show more empathy, care, and concern.

If we can help you more successfully navigate the troubled waters of crisis communications, please reach out to us.

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…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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