It is easy to point fingers and to shift the focus of the core of any issue by finding others to blame. In dealing with a crises, such as the Flint Water Crises, the time and attention by those directly involved should be focused on resolving the problems and making sure the needs of those negatively affected by the situation, both short term and long term, are taken care of.
Instead of finger pointing, the state must focus on the people first and let the litigation determine who was at fault.
As class actions get certified and the lawsuits move forward, in Flint MI, the state must continue to focus on resolving the challenges. At the same time, the parties involved in the litigation need to be concerned about their own reputation. The court of public opinion is governed by less strict rules than that of a judge or jury. Attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants should engage a public relations professional who can manage the message at each phase of the litigation, without having an impact on what goes inside the courtroom.
With attorney-client privilege in mind, a communications team should work to brief the media on the facts, the legal issues and the legal arguments behind the lawsuit. In addition, the communications team should monitor and disseminate news, information and updates through social media to ensure the messages are getting heard both in and out of the courtroom. while at the same work on a strategy to repair the reputation of those involved.
At the same time, a communications strategy can help with the government investigations surrounding a crises. In the case of a government investigation, such as the Joint Senate+House Task Force recently formed to look into the Flint Water issue, it is important to comply with all requests and work pro-actively with the members of the task force.
In the end, while you can work to repair your reputation when and while you go through litigation, being proactive with the media, lawmakers and others before a crises happens will go along way in maintaining a positive reputation through a very difficult time.