Lawyers often live in fear that the legal strategy will be sunk as a result of something that is said in the media. It’s a reasonable fear if there is no coordinated communications strategy. This is what often leads to those corporate quotes that read, “we don’t comment on pending litigation.” Such a statement is no better than “no comment” which is practically like saying “I’m guilty,” at least that’s how it’s often heard by some audiences.
Some lawyers and executives consider the “no comment” option the safe option. Perhaps, but what message does it send to the company’s key stakeholders? A company that doesn’t defend itself in the media could quickly lose support from within. An information vacuum can lead to internal panic, loss of market share and an overall tarnished reputation.
Media savvy lawyers, however, understand a good communications plan can provide “air cover” for high profile litigation as well as protect the company’s brand long after the legal process is completed. As laid out in our litigation communications manual, a strategic communications plan, executed properly, reaches jurors, judges and regulators with precisely the right message to advance the case. Reaching these audiences can be a benefit on the legal front, after all, these audiences read and watch the news like anyone else.
Beyond the legal realm, consistent communications can bring clarity and help calm fears for other vital audiences.Those audiences include employees, customers, shareholders, vendors and partners. They are the key audiences that make a brand successful. It’s important to communicate with them and control the message. If left in the dark, audiences tend to speculate and that’s where negative online chatter and rumors begin. Consistent messaging, in-sync with the legal strategy, delivered through traditional media and social media can help change the tide of public perception. For companies that have endured negative media coverage leading up to litigation or from a crisis, a sound communications plan can also help it pivot from being on defense to offense.
Lawyers who appreciate the power of the media also know that web searches are forever, which is why a brand, organization, or executive embroiled in high profile litigation should launch a smart media plan. Once the dust settles it will be important that when the client is “Googled” that readers will find information conveying their side of the story. If stories pushed out as part of a media plan are picked up by highly ranked publications, then the client’s best messages should be well represented on the first page of a Google search. That’s good for the overall brand.
Regardless of what happens in court, a good strategic communications plan will most certainly position the client in a more favorable light than those who go with the “no comment” approach. For more information download our Litigations Communications Best Practices.