Had Samsung issued what I call a “first response statement” at the onset of the crisis, rather than starting off with more of an “official response,” they could have demonstrated the same care and concern, while avoiding the misstatements, confusion and retractions.

The Different Between A First Response Statement And An Official Response Statement

The first response statement is a thoughtfully crafted statement that assures stakeholders that the organization is taking the situation seriously. It provides information regarding what the organization is currently doing to manage the incident, as well as information on when stakeholders can expect to receive more detailed information and answers to their remaining questions. In essence, this statement is meant to:

  • Demonstrate to key stakeholders that the organization cares and is prioritizing the management of the incident;
  • Answer stakeholders’ immediate questions, i.e.: “did you know?”, “do you care?”, “what are you doing about it?”, “when will we learn more?”, etc.;
  • Buy the organization more time to actually manage the incident behind the scenes and get to the root of the problem;
  • Position the organization as the voice of trust, credibility and leadership throughout the crisis.

This first response statement can and should be issued as quickly as possible. A good rule of thumb is to strive to release it within the first 15-60 minutes from the time the crisis develops an online presence. The good news is that your first response statement can, for the most part, be pre-drafted and pre-approved before a crisis occurs, giving you more of a chance to meet this tight timeline.

The official response statement, however, is what is communicated once the organization has had the appropriate time to assess the situation and provide fact-based and confirmed answers to the bigger questions. As an example, in the case of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung’s official communications should have come after they coordinated the details of their recall with the CPSC in the US, and after they thoroughly confirmed if and how their Hong Kong market would be impacted.

The timing and accuracy of your communications in a crisis counts for a lot. The stakes are high, stakeholders are upset and stress dictates that it’s easy to make mistakes, even with the best intentions. But there are things you can do to help stack the chips in your favor. Thinking through your crisis response strategy and pre-drafting that first response statement is a good place to start. I’m sure Samsung is wishing they would have held off on those initial details for a day or so.

Melissa Agnes/Forbes/Fall, 2016