When a PR crisis strikes, the normal inclination is to “get ahead of the story.” Getting ahead of the story means talking about the issues at hand before the media does, so you control the message.
However, talking about the issues without making sure you know what the issues are, is a mistake.
The first rule of crisis PR is to get the facts. If you don’t know all the facts it is best to tell the press you need to get the facts and then you’ll talk.
Many companies fear that this will appear as though they are hiding something. We almost never advise against using the words, “no comment.” But there are ways to not comment without saying no comment. What the media often want is access to those at the center of the controversy, but if those persons have nothing new to report, the media usually will give the time necessary to get the facts and then comment.
Certainly there is a limit to the patience the media have. Depending on how large a crisis we’re talking about, there will come a time when the media will conclude that the facts should be in by now. Then they will get aggressive and if you don’t address the issues, they will find others who will. That is something you don’t want.
The lesson is to think clearly, get the facts and put together a plan. And, just because it is okay to not speak immediately, it never is okay to never speak. Yes, sometimes a crisis will just go away. But one thing that should never be put off is developing a strategy, even if that strategy is to say nothing.