The cliché "all publicity is good publicity" was crafted by a publicist who didn't understand crisis communications. Negative news is not always good, but in this situation, Ashley Madison can't avoid it, so it needs to exploit it. The CEO needs to continually push and promote Ashley Madison as the industry leader for people looking for fun. And remain visionary. Reinforce in your message why your company will survive this short-term challenge.
And what about all of those users who are worried their name or business may become tarnished by the potential exposure of these records?
This is why PR generally is not a science but an art. In this situation, the customers do not want to get in front of the negative news. If your name does get leaked, that's a whole 'nother crisis strategy that probably should begin with a marriage counselor — not a publicist.
Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.