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media relations

What is news?

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What is news?

The world around us is changing. Not necessarily because of an election, but how to use and interact with technology. We need to be smarter, wiser and more connected to the world around us to know fact from fiction. We need to be vigilant and question where our news and information is coming from and who is telling it. Believe what you want but know for every issue there is always more to the story being told or the pictures and video being shared.

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Are you relevant to today's news cycle?

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Are you relevant to today's news cycle?

Promoting your brand or yourself as the brand can be both difficult and easy. With a website and social media you can broadcast your news, information and insight to the world or specifically target your target market with the right data and resources.

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Are you ready for your next interview with a reporter?

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Are you ready for your next interview with a reporter?

 

Confidence and preparation are the key to nailing any interview. As an attorney I used to be nervous appearing before a judge.  Not only was there a judge and a courtroom filled with attorneys and bystanders, but opposing counsel was there at the other table waiting to object or enforce the rules of procedure. However, with preparation and practice comes confidence and comfort. 

The same goes for an interview with a reporter. Now granted it is easier to talk with a reporter by phone, but in person, in front of a microphone (or smartphone) or camera, the nerves start to take over. In engaging a reporter like a judge, confidence is key. If this is an issue you are comfortable with you should treat as you would any conversation. In general,

  • Answer only the questions asked
  • Speak in soundbites
  • Know what you want to say and say it
  • Stick to your key messages
  • Always go back to your key messages

Sometimes, however, you are caught off-guard and the subject is not positive. You are not prepared and not sure what they will ask you. 

If that happens and you find the reporter asking questions and abruptly interrupting you, such as asking more questions before you can answer the first one, know that the reporter has an agenda, and it is not to make you look good. 

If that is the case, wait for the reporter to finish and don't feel like you have to answer everything he or she asks.

Take a deep breath, look at the reporter in the eye with confidence and say,

"You asked a lot of questions, so let me try to answer them."  

While you don't have to answer everyone, just stick to your key messages.

Never be confrontational -- it makes great television, but does not make you look great. Watch out for reporters in this situation ask you the same questions differently.  If that happens just stick to your key messages.

Investigative reporters do their homework and chances are, if they come to you, they may already have produced the story and are just waiting to throw in a sound bite from you. Sometimes investigative reporters work on stories for years, file it away and just continue to work on it until they are ready to air it. 

Sometimes, a reporter will act dumb or seem ignorant. Don't assume they are because they are not -- it is a tactic -- just like silence is used to get someone to talk. If a reporter asks you to explain something, ask them what exactly they want to know. Be as brief as possible and don't talk just to talk - just stick to your message. 

Ninety-five of the reporters out there are professional and great people. In fact, you may find in some instances they are too friendly. Sometimes in preparing for a three minute story, they may spend an hour or more with you and you will talk casually. Feel free to talk but be guarded about what you say about the subject of the interview. 

Again, think as if a judge is instructing the jury that while they can go home they cannot talk to anyone about the case, read anything about the issues or go on Twitter or Facebook at risk of tainting the jury. 

So off camera or when the microphone is down, stick to sports and the weather. 

The best advice is never saw anything that you will regret if your mother, spouse or children read it, see it or hear it. Be prepared, Be Confident and Leverage the Media to help you meet your goals in protecting your reputation. 

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Protecting Your Client's Reputation

Should lawyers represent their client’s outside the courtroom, they have to become comfortable in talking freely about their client’s case without jeopardizing legal outcomes. Lawyers in general are trained to be reticent, answer only the questions asked and to give no more information than is necessary. In the face of the media and those who rely on it, however, expansive information and open communication can serve the client better than creating an appearance that the client has something to hide and, worse is hiding behind a lawyer. Public relations counsel can employ strategies to build, preserve, and protect client reputation, while reinforcing their client’s legal strategy. In the public eye, we may be presumed guilty if we respond to a reporter’s question with “no comment.” To avoid this presumption of guilt, it is important to develop a message and answer questions, or appear to, while staying on that message. In today’s economy, lawyers need to provide their clients with more than just legal services. By learning how the media operates, lawyers can best serve their clients, by blending law, policy, politics and strategic communications to provide an integrated approach to addressing or better yet resolving legal problems.

For more information, please contact, Daniel Cherrin at dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com or 517.377.0865.

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More tips in protecting your reputation during a crisis

don’t say anything you couldn’t or wouldn’t say in court, and  just sick to the facts

For example:

  • The claim, offense or defense involved
  • Information contained in a public record
  • That an investigation of a matter is in progress
  • Undisputable facts

A litigation communications plan blends both legal expertise and media savvy, by helping to frame messages during the litigation to help preserve, protect and enhance the reputation of the parties. It also helps to monitor what others are saying about the case and the company and works to control the message, address concerns and build relationships to help the company emerge from the litigation with its reputation intact. An effective litigations communications strategy, works to enhance legal efforts by providing clarity on complex legal issues, before and after litigation. The goal of litigation communications is to guarantee that the client's public image is completely aligned with the legal team's efforts and strategy, while ensuring the company's message is understood outside the courtroom.

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Five Quick Media Tips & Tricks

 

  1. Know why you want to talk to the media. What do you hope to achieve in talking to the media?  Before you talk with a reporter, know what you want to accomplish, even if they catch you by surprise.
  2. Know your audience. Then understand who your audience is. This will help you craft the appropriate messages that resonate with the right audience.
  3. Know what you want to say. Have a few key messages you want to convey and stick to those messages.
  4. Don’t hide anything you don’t want them to find later. When speaking to the media be concise and thorough and tell them everything that you can with in reason.
  5. “Off the record” or “For background only.” As a general rule, if you don’t want it in print then don’t say it.

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Media Tips for Lawyers, Representing Clients In The Public Eye

article IMG_0344 Screenshot 11:27:12 12:03 AM 484359_10151114446092757_1756183311_n IMG_0839 Today’s legal market demands a broad range of business solutions lawyers can provide their clients. A strategic communications plan can prove to be an extremely helpful tool lawyers can provide their clients, in anticipation of or during litigation, or just an overall part of their legal strategy.

Every Company Is A Media Company

Today, every company with a website, blog or social media presence is a media company and anyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet, has the potential to damage a company’s reputation. However, at the same time with digital and mobile technology, companies have more opportunities to take their message directly to the consumer, to protect, enhance and elevate their reputation.

For companies such as Domino’s and The BBC, to celebrities and politicians such as Lance Armstrong and Elliott Spitzer, lawsuits today are no longer fought in the courtroom.  Cases are being tried in the media, with the potential to damage brands and reputations alike.

Clients Turn To Lawyers As Spokesperson

In general, a lawyer’s job is to represent their clients in a court of law, not in the media, and many are uncomfortable in talking to reporters.  However, client’s today are turning to their lawyers not just for legal support, but to help protect their reputation and often speak on their behalf.

“An attorney’s duties do not begin inside the courtroom door.  He or she cannot ignore the practical implications of a legal proceeding for the client. Just as an attorney may recommend a plea bargain or civil settlement to avoid the adversarial consequences of a possible loss after trial, so too an attorney may take reasonable steps to defend a client’s reputation and reduce the adverse consequences of an indictment, especially in the face of a prosecution deemed unjust or commenced with improper notices. A defense attorney may pursue lawful strategies to obtain dismissal of an indictment or reduction of charge, including an attempt to demonstrate in the court of public opinion that the client does not deserve to be tried.”

In today’s media saturated environment, where we can share pictures or Tweets from our phone instantaneously with the world, that may even end up on CNN or FOX News, many clients will turn to their lawyer for advice, counsel and a response.  So lawyers should have a basic understanding of interacting with the media, on line and off.

Balancing advocacy for clients and legal ethics

The Bar is concerned that attorneys often speak with authority and that whatever they say can help shape public opinion.  As a result, a good rule of thumb in talking to the press or in any public arena is to stick to discussing the facts or explaining the process. In making statements to the media during or in anticipation of trial, a lawyer, or their client’s spokesperson, should avoid making any statement that would "have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding."

In other words, “don’t say anything you couldn’t or wouldn’t say in court.” This includes speculations on a criminal defendant’s guilt or innocence, opinions on any participant’s credibility and character, conjecture on why a participant would not submit to examination, and, generally, any information that is not likely to be admissible – Just stick to the facts.  For example:

  • The claim, offense or defense involved
  • Information contained in a public record
  • That an investigation of a matter is in progress
  • The scheduling or result of any steps in litigation
  • Undisputable facts
  • A request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary of the investigation
  • A warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved.

A lawyer, however, may make statements that may be required to protect a client from substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client.  A statement should be limited to such information that is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

Crisis + Litigation Communications

The sands have shifted in the practice of law.  Gone are the days when clients were only concerned about the legal ramifications of a lawsuit or legal quagmire.  Today, clients are often also concerned with how they are judged in the public eye and perceived by their customers, vendors and by their own families.

A litigation communications plan, blends both legal expertise and media savvy, by helping to frame messages during the litigation to help preserve, protect and enhance the reputation of the parties. It also helps to monitor what others are saying about the case and the company and works to control the message, address concerns and build relationships to help the company emerge from the litigation with its reputation intact. An effective litigations communications strategy, works to enhance legal efforts by providing clarity on complex legal issues, before and after litigation. However, the process should start long before a matter goes to trial and even before the firs documents are filed. The goal of litigation communications is to guarantee that the client's public image is completely aligned with the legal team's efforts and strategy, while ensuring the company's message is understood outside the courtroom. As a result, communications experts should be retained early on in the process, to monitor the media, craft the messages for key audiences, respond where and when appropriate and otherwise be involved.

In retaining a public relations professional, it is important that you find someone who understands the interplay between the law and legal process on one side, and the media and public opinion on the other. Managing these complex communications in a timely and efficient manner can play a vital role in the cost-effective mitigation of a crisis or legal matter.

Tips for dealing with the Media

Despite certain rules imposed on lawyers, reporters, journalists and bloggers may contact you based on a case that you are working on or a client that you represent, or perhaps even the issue areas you work in everyday.  Alternatively, you may contact them, to help position your client in the public eye or to promote yourself as an expert on an issue that is receiving a lot of attention in the news.  Regardless of how a reporter comes to you, in dealing with the media it is important to understand what they want and how you can best work with them.

The media is interested in a story that others want to read, watch or listen to.  News is something that is:

  • Timely,
  • Relevant, and
  • Sometimes entertaining.

Reporters will most likely report on stories that are:

  • First
  • Trends
  • Unusual or unique
  • Involve celebrities, kids or dogs and
  • General human-interest stories.

When the reporter asks you if he or she can ask you a few questions, try to get a little more information from them. Find out what the reporter wants to know.  Depending on when they call, they are most likely on deadline and looking for a quick sound-bite.  If you need to, ask if you can call them back and think about what you want to say.  Then call them back in a timely manner.

Here are a few more tips in terms of working with the media:

Know why you want to talk to the media -- What do you hope to achieve in talking to the media?  Before you talk with a reporter, know what you want to accomplish, even if they catch you by surprise.

Know your audience -- Then understand who your audience is. This will help you craft the appropriate messages that resonate with the right audience.

Know what you want to say – Once you know why you want to approach the media, and who the audience is, know what you want to say.  Have a few key messages written out that you want to convey to the reporter and think of a few questions they may ask -- and be ready to respond.

Do your homework – Know what the reporter writes about and covers. Be familiar with their latest story and angle.  Go on their website, perhaps they have a blog or check them out on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.

What not to do with the Media:

Never say “No Comment” or “Because a lawsuit was filed we cannot comment on active litigation.” Instead say something more general and stick to your messages, or “I can’t tell you that now, but what I can tell you is..."

  • Don’t repeat a negative question or phrase
  • Stop using jargon or technical lingo
  • Try not to go “off the record”
  • Never lie
  • Don’t attack competitors or sell yourself

During the interview – Think of it as a debate not a conversation, unless you are talking to Stephen Colbert:

  • A reporter is using it to gather information or to find a story
  • Know your objectives and stick to your key message
  • If the reporter gets off message, bridge back to your key message
  • Answer only the question asked
  • Stick to your messages

Don’t hide anything you don’t want them to find later. When speaking to the media be concise and thorough and tell them everything that you can with in reason. You do not want them finding out information on their own and then confronting you when you are not prepared to answer their questions.

If you don’t know, don’t tell and don’t worry – Don’t panic if you are asked a question during an interview that you do not know the answer to. Be honest and tell them that you do not know the answer but that you would be happy to look into it and get back to them. Never attempt to make something up.

Silence. When being interviewed, once you have made your point do not be intimidated by silence. Silence is not a bad thing during an interview, it’s a tactic used by reporters to get you to talk, in the hopes of getting you to say something that you shouldn’t have.

“Off the record” or “For background only” – As a general rule, if you don’t want it in print then don’t say it.  However, an ethical reporter will respect what you are trying to say and will work with to make sure what your saying is accurate. It helps to know the reporters covering the issues you are working on and have a good working relationship with them. It also helps to not be confrontational and to respect them for having a job to do and that you want to work with them in preparing their story.

Timing – Just as a lawyer sticks to deadlines prescribed by the court, reporters have deadlines to keep and times they need to either file stories or air them. You will develop better relationships with a reporter if you are sensitive to their deadlines.

Preparing for an ambush – If a reporter catches you by surprise, stop in your tracks, address the reporters questions (you can be vague if you want), then let them know that you have another commitment and that you will get back to them by their deadline.  If a reporter calls by phone  take their message, find out what they want and when their deadline is,  and get back to them in a timely manner.

Working with the media – It is about relationships.

Corrections -- Don’t be afraid to correct the reporter or ask them to revise their story to be accurate.

Monitor the media – Know what is being said about you, your clients, your firm and your industry.

Anything else? – This is always the last question in any interview, so be prepared to summarize your key messages; say anything that you forgot to say before; or clarify any statement that needs further explanation. s not deserve to be tried.”2

Social Media Tips

Social media is becoming more than a tool for us to stay in touch with our friends or family, it is becoming a new area to look out for our client’s interests and/or a new medium to promote our practice. It also is our opportunity to control the message and to clarify misinformation. However, interacting with those using social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or YouTube, is a little different than working with the traditional media.

Know the influentials –  There are millions of people using a variety of social media sites that it is important to know who the influential people are.  There are a number of social media sites that you can use to track the influentials.

Monitor the chatter – Once you know who to follow you should monitor the chatter. Listen to the tone of the comments and questions and participate where appropriate. A good way to monitor the media is to create Google Alerts, Twitter feeds or Facebook updates. Even if you don’t join the conversation, be aware of what people are saying about your company on different social media platforms.

Engage the community – Once you are able to gain an understanding of social media and how it works, go ahead and begin to engage the community. However, in using social media one’s credibility is gained through transparency, honesty, relevance and value.

Crisis Management

If a crisis ensues, you may not have the time to monitor social media sites and find the right time to engage people on line. Should that be the case, you should be more proactive, reserve the various domain names with your name, your companies name and variations thereof  so should something happen, you can go on line and communicate directly to the masses.

FOIA

The documents you file in court are public documents and subject to FOIA. Don’t be surprised if you see the language from your depositions, motions or others in an article or even on a graphic on television. So, if a reporter asks for a document, it will go along way if you just give it to them but feel free to redact sensitive or privileged information.

Hiring PR Counsel

Lawyers need to understand what is news and how to best communicate that news to the public.  If attorneys will not provide such services, then they should build strategic partnerships with public relations firms to help them. To meet the needs of today’s businesses, lawyers will need skilled advice regarding how to position their clients before the media, while legally protecting their clients.  Seeking PR counsel is an important aspect of any legal strategy. Even if the issue is a small matter, there is no way we can tell how public opinion can or will shape the outcome of a case. Therefore, in engaging public relations counsel:

  • Have the lawyer retain the PR firm as opposed to your client directly, to try to preserve attorney-client privilege.
  • The public relations counsel should consult with both the client and attorney at every step of the process.

Once a public relations firm is engaged, they will, depending on the strategy: help with messaging and identify the appropriate media to communicate those messages or even act as your client’s spokesperson. They also should monitor the media and find ways to enhance, protect and further your client’s reputation.

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Public Engagement and Media Relations When City's Are At Risk

The City of Detroit and State of Michigan are at a precarious position as the state looks into the city's finances and talkcontinues about the potential of having an emergency financial manager appointed.

As the talk continues the mood in Detroit has taken a sudden turn back to the "us vs. them" mentality that "only Detroiters can solve Detroit's problems".  To avoid creating an environment that will get in the way of progress and to help build political capital for the Mayor and the Governor, I strongly suggest that as part of the process for triggering a state review of a government's finances, a strategic communications plan and community engagement process should begin simultaneously to create a positive environment to make the necessary changes.  I recently wrote an article on how companies can preserve their reputation in a wake of bankruptcy.  The same strategy applies for a public entity.

For example, before an EFM is appointed or even before the triggers are pulled to start the process, the Governor and his team should be mobilized to the City of Detroit to meet with key stakeholders, such as:

  • Business organizations;
  • Community development organizations;
  • The faith-based community;
  • Detroit-based CEOs; and,
  • Urban media

To explain why the state "may" jump in to help the city with its financial situation. This is to set the tone and set the record straight as to why we have this process, the steps we have taken thus far (including regular meetings with the Mayor) and what the next steps will be. It also will help maintain relationships and create open channels of discussion and dialogue.

The Governor should also find third party supporters, such as members of the clergy and business leaders, to validate the process to Detroiters so that they know that this is the right choice both the City and the State are making.

Then should the Governor appoint an EFM, along with that appointment, a person that is familiar with the media and political landscape should also be appointed to help the EFM navigate the local political environment and serve as the liaison to the community, as well as be the one to respond to the media and help represent the EFM at various community events.

Community engagement should be a part of the EFM process under the Act. Then having someone outside the Treasury Department respond to the media also can go along way in maintaining relationships in the city's EFMs operate.

Finally, having an EFM come into a community should be seen as an opportunity for a city to experience a fresh start and a new beginning.  As a result, while the EFM works to make a public entity financially stable and secure, the communities chamber of commerce, DDA or other community groups should create a strategy to enhance  the city's image. That way,  when an EFM's work is completed and the Mayor or Superintendent are given the responsibility once again to manage the public entity,  their image will not just be maintained, it will be enhanced due to a strategic communications plan.

Daniel Cherrin is an attorney specializing in protecting and enhancing the reputation of people and organizations and practices in the areas of public affairs, strategic communications, public policy dispute resolution and crisis management, with Fraser Trebilcock. He is the former Communications Director for the City of Detroit and Press Secretary to Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr.  Daniel also serves as the spokesperson for Mackinac Island and The Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

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Preserving a company’s reputation in the wake of bankruptcy

*This article first appeared in the August 15, 2011 edition of Michigan Lawyers Weekly. In bankruptcy, there is more at stake than who gets paid first.

Should a company file for bankruptcy or even begin the discussion, it is important to address the public’s opinion as much as it is to deal with the legal issues.

After all, reputation matters.

Corporate failures today are front-page news. In the first quarter of 2011, 366,178 companies filed for bankruptcy. This was down 6 percent from those filed in the first quarter of 2010.

Today’s economy puts many companies and individuals in difficult positions where they must choose what needs to be done for their economic survival.

Should a company choose to file for bankruptcy, it does not mean they are going out of business or up for sale. In most cases, bankruptcy means restructuring the company to be smarter, leaner and more efficient.

An effective communications strategy provides critical information to key stakeholders at every step in the process and can help minimize risk. Therefore, managing the message as to how a company got to this point, what they are doing to address the problem, and what they plan on doing when they re-emerge are all critical to how people will perceive the company during and after bankruptcy.

In filing for bankruptcy, it is important to prioritize key constituencies and determine the best way to communicate with them. For example, communicating to investors or shareholders may be different in how you communicate with vendors or customers.

Investors want to know how sound their investment will be, if the company plans on staying public, and the plans for emerging from bankruptcy. Customers want to know if their warranties will be honored, where they can go for service or who they can call if they have an issue with the product or service.

Also, vendors want to know their place in all this — if they should continue with their current production or performance and if they will get paid and when.

In communicating a company’s approach to file for bankruptcy, it is important to carefully communicate the reasons why and possible outcomes as to avoid any misunderstanding of the company’s true intention. As a result, transparency and honesty in one’s financial situation is vital to making sure that key constituencies will not read into the companies actions.

Instead, the company must be forthright as to everything they file with the court. That’s because many people following the company — particularly a public one — will likely go online and read the documents surrounding the bankruptcy.

Once the company does file, it is equally important to constantly be in touch with your core constituencies. For example, GM and Chrysler each took us along for the ride as they filed for bankruptcy, announced their restructuring, and emerged as a new company.

Earlier this year, Borders filed for bankruptcy and sent out notices to their customers and investors, ensuring business will go on and service will continue, but changes will have to be made.

And on the day United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2002, its CEO flew to Chicago to meet face-to-face with employees. Other executives did the same in Denver, Washington, San Francisco, and other hub cities to reassure the public and their employees that the airline is, and will always be, a viable company.

They did not just send out a news release. After they filed, they took out full-page ads in major papers explaining what they were doing and why. Once they emerged from bankruptcy, they were a new company with their reputation intact.

In communicating messages during a bankruptcy or wherever litigation is involved, lawyers should be given the opportunity to sign off on what is being communicated. At the same time, attorneys must be able to see the big picture as to why the PR counsel is even involved and why they must communicate through the media.

Attorneys need to be open about what is being communicated with the idea that they are working to protect and, at times, enhance the public perception of their client.

At the same time the message is crafted, companies should actively monitor the online chatter about their company and their industry, and work to quell any misinformation being communicated about the company or its employees.

Today, an individual and a company are only as good as their reputation. In general, with the economy the way it is, we understand that in tough economic times, companies as well as individuals may have to file for bankruptcy.

As long as there is honesty and maturity in how you communicate your problems or situation, people will understand. Being upfront and proactive in your actions will help position your company for future success and go a long way to bolstering your individual and corporate reputation, while putting to rest any potential negative ramifications from the filing.

Lawyers savvy enough with the how the media works, and in protecting and enhancing their client’s reputation, understand the interplay between the law and legal process on one hand, and public opinion and business strategy on the other.

And there is benefit to working with experienced PR professionals in creating and delivering the right message publicly, without jeopardizing the legal process or strategy. In fact, the messages that are communicated may lead to successful settlement or reorganization.

A Few Pointers

• Tell your story first.

• Know what you want to communicate  and why.

• Call in third-party supporters to support you.

• Put a human face on the situation.

• Use all the communications tools at your disposal, such as social media and web, as well as traditional.

• Make the story about recovery, not liquidation. For example, focus on jobs and service.

• Focus on what you want the expected outcome to be and stay on message in getting there.

For the full article, visit http://milawyersweekly.com/news/2011/08/12/preserving-a-company’s-reputation-in-the-wake-of-bankruptcy/.  For more information, please contact Daniel Cherrin, an attorney with Fraser Trebilcock, at 313.965.9039 or dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com.

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Trust me, It’s Okay To Talk To The Media!

By: Daniel Cherrin In today’s media saturated environment, where we can share pictures or Tweets from our phone instantaneously with the world, that may even end up on CNN or FOX News, many clients will turn to their lawyer for advice, counsel and a response. So lawyers should have a basic understanding of interacting with the media, on line and off. In fact, in today’s litigious environment, legal issues permeate the headlines, placing brands and reputations at risk. Today, clients are demanding their lawyers not only defend them in a court of law, but also in the court of public opinion.

I am speaking before the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association as a featured speaker during their monthly Drink n' Learn Happy Hours on the subject of media relations and the law. Here is a brief summary of my remarks:

It’s okay to talk to the media If the media is interested in your client’s story and you or your client avoid talking to them, then someone else will, and chances are you will not like what they have to say. As attorney’s it is okay to talk to the media. Just watch what you or what your client have to say and know why you are saying it.

Stick to the facts Try to stay above the rhetoric and stick to the facts of the case without revealing your legal strategy. Use the media as an opportunity to gauge the public’s interest in this case and perhaps test certain messages.

Our Top Tips For Working With The Media

• Know why you want to talk to the media & who to talk to – It should not matter whether a reporter calls you or you call the reporter. In representing clients, attorneys should look at thee big picture and see how a legal problem could quickly become a PR problem for their client. Therefor, in engaging with the media figure out first, what you hope to achieve in talking to them. Then understand who their audience is. Be familiar with their latest story and angle. Go on their website, perhaps they have a blog or check them out on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. This will help you craft the appropriate messages that resonate with the right audience.

• Know what you want to say – Once you know why you want to approach the media, and who the audience is, know what you want to say. Have a few key messages written out that you want to convey to the reporter and think of a few questions they may ask -- and be ready to respond. It is important to have three or four key messages that you want to make sure you get across to the reporter. These are the messages you should stick to throughout the interview.

• What not to do with the Media -- Never say “No Comment” or “Because a lawsuit was filed we cannot comment on active litigation.” Instead say something more general and stick to your messages, or “I can’t tell you that now, but what I can tell you is..." Don’t repeat a negative question or phrase. If you do, it may be attributed to you. And whatever, you do, stop using legal jargon or technical lingo – we don’t want to hear it.

• During the interview – Think of it as a debate not a conversation, unless you are on Oprah

As much as we want to be everyone’s friend, remember, a reporter has a job to do and so do you. In fact, the reporter may be using the interview to gather information or to find a story. Therefore, stay on message, don’t get diverted from the topic at hand, correct any misinformation, only answer the questions asked and remember who you are talking to and who they work for.

• Don’t hide anything you don’t want them to find later. When speaking to the media be concise and thorough and tell them everything that you can with in reason. You do not want them finding out information on their own and then confronting you when you are not prepared to answer their questions. In addition, don’t panic if you are asked a question during an interview that you do not know the answer to. Be honest and tell them that you do not know the answer but that you would be happy to look into it and get back to them. Never attempt to make something up and never lie.

• “Off the record” or “For background only” – As a general rule, if you don’t want it in print then don’t say it. However, an ethical reporter will respect what you are trying to say and will work with you to make sure what your saying is accurate. It helps to know the reporters covering the issues you are working on and have a good working relationship with them. It also helps to not be confrontational and to respect them for having a job to do and that you want to work with them in preparing their story.

• Timing – Just as a lawyer sticks to deadlines prescribed by the court, reporters have deadlines to keep and times they need to either file stories or air them. You will develop better relationships with a reporter if you are sensitive to their deadlines.

• Preparing for an ambush – If a reporter catches you by surprise, stop in your tracks, address the reporters questions (you can be vague if you want), then let them know that you have another commitment and that you will get back to them by their deadline. If a reporter calls by phone take their message, find out what they want and when their deadline is, and get back to them in a timely manner.

• Anything else? – This is always the last question in any interview, so be prepared to summarize your key messages; say anything that you forgot to say before; or clarify any statement that needs further explanation.

• Monitor the media – Know what is being said about you, your clients, your firm and your industry.

Social Media Tips Social media is becoming more than a tool for us to stay in touch with our friends or family, it is becoming a new area to look out for our client’s interests and/or a new medium to promote our practice. It also is our opportunity to control the message and to clarify misinformation. However, interacting with those using social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN or YouTube, is a little different than working with the traditional media. Therefore,

• Know the influentials – There are millions of people using a variety of social media sites everyday. Know who the ones that are followed the most and what to see who is following them.

• Monitor the chatter – Once you know who to follow you should monitor the chatter. Listen to the tone of the comments and questions and participate where appropriate. A good way to monitor the media is to create Google Alerts, Twitter feeds or Facebook updates. Even if you don’t join the conversation, be aware of what people are saying about your company on different social media platforms.

• Engage the community – Once you are able to gain an understanding of social media and how it works, go ahead and begin to engage the community. However, in using social media one’s credibility is gained through transparency, honesty, relevance and value.

Daniel Cherrin is the former Communications Director/Press Secretary for the City of Detroit and to Detroit Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr. He is now the Managing Director of Fraser Consulting – a Lansing based Public Affairs and Government Relations firm, and an attorney and Director of Marketing for Fraser Trebilcock. You can reach Daniel at dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com or (313) 965-9039 or follow him on Twitter @DanCherrin.

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When They Come, Respond with the Facts

Whether we agree with them or not, they are coming. As the City of Dearborn, Mich., braces for national media attention as Terry Jones and his followers plan a protest outside an Islamic Center, the City of Dearborn is responding well, by denying a permit but providing a place to speak. For the City of Dearborn, the best strategy is to let Jones speak and protect everyone from getting hurt. At the same time, the City should also allow the Muslim American community a place to also speak and congregate if they want.

Mayor O'Reilly is doing the right thing. He is talking to the media at a local and national level in setting the record straight and dispelling any myths that may be out in the blogosphere. O'Reilly should also take his case straight to bloggers, tweeters and others, perhaps through a video posted on YouTube. If Domino's did it after their crisis and BP did it after theres, it is better to be proactive in this circumstance and make sure your messages are being heard over others. While the situations are different, the strategy should be to be proactive and available.

For the Muslim American community, the best response is a quiet response. In potentially hostile situations such as this, where one group expresses such a radical view, it is best not to add fuel to their fire. As a result, their response should be strategic and focused, working through traditional and social media channels to educate the general public and engage their base of support on this issue. Just as Jones may turn to social media, so too should the Muslim American Community with video's on YouTube and Google, iReports (CNN), Tweets, Blogs and Facebook updates.

For other religious and ethnic groups, this presents the perfect opportunity to build goodwill to show outrage to Jones and his tactics.

But in situations like this, it is important that the facts speak larger than the actions and that no further action makes this a larger story than it needs to be. Being prepared, having a plan and the relationships with key reporters and bloggers as well as remaining accessible is the best way to make sure this story does not become larger than it needs to be.

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Preserving a company's trust and reputation: Communicating the right messages in wake of bankruptcy.

Today’s economy puts a lot of companies and individuals in difficult positions where they must choose what needs to be done for their economic survival. Should a company choose to file for bankruptcy, it does not mean they are going out of business or putting their company up for sale. In most cases, bankruptcy means restructuring the company to be smarter, leaner and more efficient. In communicating a company’s approach to file for bankruptcy, it is important to carefully communicate the reasons why and possible outcomes as to avoid any misunderstanding of the company’s true intention. As a result, transparency and honesty in one’s financial situation is vital to making sure that key constituencies will not read into the companies actions. Instead, the company must be forthright as to everything they file with the court since many people following the company, particularly a public company, and industry will likely go online and read the documents surrounding the bankruptcy.

As a result, perhaps companies should set up a special website or hotline to assure customers and vendors that their products will still get services, their contracts will still get honored or where they can go to learn more information in general. It also will help assure employees that the company will continue to operate.

In filing for bankruptcy, it is important to prioritize key constituencies and determine the best way to communicate with them. For example, communicating to investors/shareholders may be different in how you communicate with vendors or customers. Investors want to know how sound their investment will be; if the company plans on staying public and the plans for emerging from bankruptcy. Customers want to know if their warranties will be honored, where they can go for service or who they can call if they have an issue with the product or service. Vendors want to know their place in all this. If they should continue with their current production or performance and if they will get paid and when?

Once the company files for bankruptcy, it is equally important to constantly be in touch with your core constituencies. For example, GM, Chrysler and the federal government each took us along for the ride as they filed for bankruptcy, announced their restructuring and emerged as a new company. Yesterday, Border’s filed for bankruptcy and send out notices to their core constituency, ensuring business will go on and service will continue, but changes will have to be made. (See the attached email to Border Reward members.)

Depending on the situation, this can be done through regularly scheduled news conferences, Twitter updates, Blog postings, investor conference calls, media conference calls and the like. However, in communicating with shareholders, debt holders, investors, vendors, customers and employees, it is important to determine what the key messages will be and how you will follow up with them. In today’s social and mobile media age, companies need to often trump their own announcement by getting the information out fast and first.

Regardless of the messages, it is important to be in periodic communication with key publics. This includes before filing, during and after the bankruptcy. A company should not want key stakeholders and casual observers to read into their actions or lack thereof. As a result, communicating will be crucial to the company’s sustainability on they re-emerge form bankruptcy.

For public companies specifically, in communicating to external audiences, they are communicating the market, which can impact stock prices and the market as well as have the potential to dramatically alter the image the public has of the company. As a result, PR counselors must work with the company’s attorneys in crafting the right message and a message legally permissible under securities laws and regulations. There also is a certain protocol in communicating those messages to particular audiences.

In communicating messages during a bankruptcy or wherever litigation is involved, should be given the opportunity to sign off of what is being communicated. At the same time, attorneys must be able to see the big picture as to why PR counsel is even involved and why they must communicate through the media. Attorneys need to be open about what is being communicated and with the idea that they are working to protect and at times, enhance their public perception.

In addition, companies should actively monitor the on-line chatter about their company and their industry and work to quell and misinformation being communicated about the company or its employees. This also includes actively maintaining relationships with vendors, consumers and others and working with them throughout the bankruptcy.

Today, an individual and a company is only as good as their reputation. In general, with the economy the way it is, we understand that in tough economic times, companies as well as individuals may have to file for bankruptcy. As long as there is honesty and maturity in how we communicate our problems or situation, people will understand your situation. Being up-front and proactive in your actions will help position your company for future success and go along way to bolstering your individual and corporate reputation, while putting to rest and potential negative ramifications from the filing.

Filing for bankruptcy is not the beginning of the end for a company. It is a new beginning and a second chance for the company to better serve its customer. It also presents the company with the opportunity to re-evaluate its’ business and to re-emerge as a new company. In emerging from bankruptcy, companies also have the opportunity go back to its core, re-focus, re-brand and re-emerge leaner but stronger and refreshed to create a new beginning.

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Border's Bankruptcy - Communicating the right messages

Today’s economy puts a lot of companies and individuals in difficult positions where they must choose what needs to be done for their economic survival. Should a company choose to file for bankruptcy, it does not mean they they are going out of business or putting their company up for sale. In most cases, bankruptcy means restructuring the company to be smarter, leaner and more efficient. In communicating a company’s approach to file for bankruptcy, it is important to carefully communicate the reasons why and possible outcomes as to avoid any misunderstanding of the company’s true intention. As a result, transparency and honesty in one’s financial situation is vital to making sure that key constituencies will not read into the companies actions. Instead, the company must be forthright as to everything they file with the court since many people following the company, particularly a public company, and industry will likely go online and read the documents surrounding the bankruptcy.

As a result, perhaps companies should set up a special website or hotline to assure customers and vendors that their products will still get services, their contracts will still get honored or where they can go to learn more information in general. It also will help assure employees that the company will continue to operate.

In filing for bankruptcy, it is important to prioritize key constituencies and determine the best way to communicate with them. For example, communicating to investors/shareholders may be different in how you communicate with vendors or customers. Investors want to know how sound their investment will be; if the company plans on staying public and the plans for emerging from bankruptcy. Customers want to know if their warranties will be honored, where they can go for service or who they can call if they have an issue with the product or service. Vendors want to know their place in all this. If they should continue with their current production or performance and if they will get paid and when?

Once the company files for bankruptcy, it is equally important to constantly be in touch with your core constituencies. For example, GM, Chrylser and the federal government each took us along for the ride as they filed for bankruptcy, announced their restructuring and emerged as a new company. Yesterday, Border’s filed for bankruptcy and send out notices to their core constituency, ensuring business will go on and service will continue, but changes will have to be made. (See the attached email to Border Reward members.)

Depending on the situation, this can be done through regularly scheduled news conferences, Twitter updates, Blog postings, investor conference calls, media conference calls and the like. However, in communicating with shareholders, debt holders, investors, vendors, customers and employees, it is important to determine what the key messages will be and how you will follow up with them. In today’s social and mobile media age, companies need to often trump their own announcement by getting the information out fast and first.

Regardless of the messages, it is important to be in periodic communication with key publics. This includes before filing, during and after the bankruptcy. A company should not want key stakeholders and casual observers to read into their actions or lack thereof. As a result, communicating will be crucial to the company’s sustainability on they re-emerge form bankruptcy.

For public companies specifically, in communicating to external audiences, they are communicating the market, which can impact stock prices and the market as well as have the potential to dramatically alter the image the public has of the company. As a result, PR counselors must work with the company’s attorneys in crafting the right message and a message legally permissible under securities laws and regulations. There also is a certain protocol in communicating those messages to particular audiences.

In communicating messages during a bankruptcy or wherever litigation is involved, should be given the opportunity to sign off of what is being communicated. At the same time, attorneys must be able to see the big picture as to why PR counsel is even involved and why they must communicate through the media. Attorneys need to be open about what is being communicated and with the idea that they are working to protect and at times, enhance their public perception.

In addition, companies should actively monitor the on-line chatter about their company and their industry and work to quell and misinformation being communicated about the company or its employees. This also includes actively maintaining relationships with vendors, consumers and others and working with them throughout the bankruptcy.

Today, an individual and a company is only as good as their reputation. In general, with the economy the way it is, we understand that in tough economic times, companies as well as individuals may have to file for bankruptcy. As long as there is honesty and maturity in how we communicate our problems or situation, people will understand your situation. Being up-front and proactive in your actions will help position your company for future success and go along way to bolstering your individual and corporate reputation, while putting to rest and potential negative ramifications from the filing.

Filing for bankruptcy is not the beginning of the end for a company. It is a new beginning and a second chance for the company to better serve its customer. It also presents the company with the opportunity to re-evaluate its’ business and to re-emerge as a new company. In emerging from bankruptcy, companies also have the opportunity go back to its core, re-focus, re-brand and re-emerge leaner but stronger and refreshed to create a new beginning.

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