How to Get Along With Lawyers During a Crisis

don_t_panic_buttonManaging a crisis and a company’s reputation is much easier and more effective when the PR team and legal counsel are on the same page.

To help this relationship work, here is a list of qualities that each side need from the other.

Qualities An In-House Lawyer Values In An External PR Firm:

  • Experience: Having a member of the PR team whose worked as a reporter was invaluable in translating the process. What was the reporter looking for? What would he accept from us?
  • Resilient: Working with a reporter on background takes persistence and the willingness to go back repeatedly if necessary on issues. They can’t give up and provide the reporter with an excuse to report an inaccurate or unbalanced fact.
  • Responsive: A media crisis is a 24/7 grind. Media appreciate getting immediate responses to questions and issues. (It is also a two-way street.)
  • Tough: Someone you would want with you in a bar fight.
  • Teachable: Work with someone who will get beyond sound bites and wants to understand the details and background. This will involve a desire to dig in and learn about the company and how it does business.

Qualities a PR firm values in Corporate Legal Counsel

  • No schadenfreude: leave the legal language for pleadings, not the media or communications to non-lawyers. In a crisis, a good lawyer will know less is more for messaging.
  • Value PR: Understanding the proactive and reactive role of public relations, particularly during a crisis, is valuable, and counsel knows it can preserve or help rebuild a company’s reputation. The court of public opinion is just as valuable as the actual courtroom.
  • Cool-headed: A crisis can have many different lifecycles, and keeping calm with a focus on the end goal is appreciated.
  • Open-minded: A PR response can be much different than a legal response in a crisis, while both have similar goals.
  • Backbone: During a crisis, an executive may want to either go out swinging or say absolutely nothing. A good legal counsel will offer a better perspective, and a more moderate and effective approach. Remember: you want to win the war, not the battle.

PR qualities courtesy of Bill Ojile, Partner, Armstrong Teasdale, Denver office; former Chief Legal Officer Alta Colleges

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