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social media

GUILTY, in the court of public opinion!

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GUILTY, in the court of public opinion!

While we may be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we have a higher burden in the court of public opinion. Social media plays a central role in how we form our opinions on the news and on each other.

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Business Must Embrace Social Media

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Business Must Embrace Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is no longer used to post what your college roommate from decades ago had for dinner. Social media is a vital tool to a companies sales funnel and managing its reputation. For many companies it is the first line of defense, an early warning system into issues becoming problems and problems turning into crises. To manage risk and monitor the digital chatter, companies should have a social media policy. Here are a few tips in drafting that policy.

 

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I want to pop your bubble!

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I want to pop your bubble!

In business, all we have is our reputation, so what happens when somebody is spreading misinformation about you, but you don’t know about it since you are in your bubble.

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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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Be a follower at your next trade show

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Be a follower at your next trade show

Social media is a blessing and a curse. There is so much to do and so many people to follow that we can waste so much time posting and following.  However, in regards to getting the most out of trade shows and conventions, social media continues to change the we we collaborate, communicate and educate and it could add value to your next conference or trade show. 

So whether your company has an exhibit or booth at the event or you are simply walking the trade show floor, depending on what you want to get out of event, here are a few tips for using social media:

Pre-Show

  • Set Goals - Why are you attending this event?  For example to learn or network, build a social media following or just experiment with social media
  • Become a Follower/Twitter - Follow the major media outlets and show organizers to get the latest information on the event and to see what is trending and who is commenting.
  • Start pre show teasers for your campaign
  • Develop an on site and post show plan
  • Work to become relevant to the conversation
  • Retweet often to get noticed by the conference influencers
  • Tweet using the official hashtag leading up to the event
  • Follow other firms, industry organizations and others that will exhibit or speak at the event.
  • Link-In before you leave - Use LinkedIn Updates to find out who's talking about the event.
  • Update your status to reflect your plans at the event.
  • Use Linked In to connect with potential venders, partners, clients and peers a the show.
  • Schedule meetings through LinkedIn. 
  • Download the mobile app

DURING THE SHOW

  • Stay connected to the action of the show using the official (and unofficial) hashtags
  • Share your experience through your blog, Facebook and Twiter, 
  • Use Instagram to capture and share show photos
  • Explore new social media such as Meerekat and Periscope, even Snapchat -- these events are great ways to explore and get comfortable with social media. 
  • Retweet posts from other influencers

After the Show

  • Connect to those that you met via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Send thank you's to those that you connected with (I still like to write personal handwritten notes, in addition to email/LinkedIn messages)
  • Stay connected and continue the conversation even when your return to your office. 

In regards to media relations, you should also familiarize yourself with the trade media covering these events and work several months in advance to place your products and projects in their publications or work with them to place other content in the materials that will be distributed on the trade show floor. This may include sponsoring content and you should prepare a marketing budget to further assist you in reaching your goals while attending the event. 

 

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5 Social Media Tips For Workers In Wake of NLRB Ruling

The National Labor Relations Board (#NLRB) has recently declared, through a series of rulings, advisories and memos, that employers cannot fire their employees for what they post on line.  However, here are a five tips for workers to think about in posting on line:

  1. We are watching you. Your employer and other co-workers are most likely following you on line, so they know what you are saying about them.
  2. Don’t post anything that you would not want someone to find, whether it is your children, your parents or a future employer.
  3. Before you turn to social media to complain or vent, try to step back before reacting.
  4. If you go negative at least be constructive.
  5. If you have something to say, say it, but don’t dwell on it.

Social Media

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5 Social Media Tips For Companies In Wake of NLRB Ruling

The National Labor Relations Board (#NLRB) has recently declared, through a series of rulings, advisories and memos, that employers cannot fire their employees for what they post on line.  However, here are a few tips for companies to think about as their employers turn to social media:

  1. Have a social media policy outlining exactly what you expect your employees to post on line, reminding them to keep private information private.
  2. If you already have a social media policy, review it and revise it.
  3. Have someone monitor social media activity both internally and externally.
  4. Respond to posts that need to be responded to in a timely way.
  5. Turn negative chatter into positive and constructive dialogue. social-media-love

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Trial by Twitter, Facebook & other Social Media

A consultant hired by Casey Anthony's attorneys analyzed more than 40,000 opinions on various social media sites and blogs where her attorneys then used them to craft their trial strategy.  According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, "When bloggers and others in social media sites started to attack George Anthony about his alleged mistress, the defense team beefed up their questions against him."The Casey Anthony trial has brought social media into the courtroom. While jurors may be prevented from tweeting or updating their Facebook status from the courtroom or during the duration of a trial, the jury of public opinion is running rampant, 24/7 with their opinions of the trial.
According to Amy Singer, the social media consultant in the case, her team of five individuals would scan a variety of sites, blogs and tweets to gauge opinions about the trial, wtiness testimonies, evidence and the body language of the defendant. Those opinions were given the the defense attorney where they adjusted their tactics based on what they learned on line.
With the Casey Anthony trial now over, public opinion still wages on in social media circles, but one thing is clear, Facebook and Twitter have changed the way lawyers defend or prosecute a case.  Fraser Trebilcock, through its subsidiary, Fraser Consulting, has access to public relations and public affairs experts who monitor social media on behalf of a number of clients and respond when a response is warranted. Fraser Trebilcock also recently launched a Litigation + Strategic Communications practice group to help clients manage the message in the courtroom and out.
For more information, please visit www.fraserlawfirm.com or contact Daniel Cherrinat dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com.

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Trial by Twitter & Facebook

A consultant hired by Casey Anthony's attorneys analyzed more than 40,000 opinions on various social media sites and blogs where her attorneys then used them to craft their trial strategy.  According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, "When bloggers and others in social media sites started to attack George Anthony about his alleged mistress, the defense team beefed up their questions against him."The Casey Anthony trial has brought social media into the courtroom. While jurors may be prevented from tweeting or updating their Facebook status from the courtroom or during the duration of a trial, the jury of public opinion is running rampant, 24/7 with their opinions of the trial.
According to Amy Singer, the social media consultant in the case, her team of five individuals would scan a variety of sites, blogs and tweets to gauge opinions about the trial, wtiness testimonies, evidence and the body language of the defendant. Those opinions were given the the defense attorney where they adjusted their tactics based on what they learned on line.
With the Casey Anthony trial now over, public opinion still wages on in social media circles, but one thing is clear, Facebook and Twitter have changed the way lawyers defend or prosecute a case.  Fraser Trebilcock, through its subsidiary, Fraser Consulting, has access to public relations and public affairs experts who monitor social media on behalf of a number of clients and respond when a response is warranted. Fraser Trebilcock also recently launched a Litigation + Strategic Communications practice group to help clients manage the message in the courtroom and out.
For more information, please visit www.fraserlawfirm.com or contact Daniel Cherrin at 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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Who's watching what is posted on social media sites?

YouTube logoAnother case to watch is one emerging from (Turin) Italy that involves four Google executives who are charged with defamation and violating the privacy of an autistic youth by allowing a (2006) video of the child being abused to be posted on YouTube. This case is being closely watched by the public relations community as it has far-reaching implications for sharing video and other content on the Internet. The defendants are: chief legal officer David Drummond, former chief financial officer George Reyes, senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer. All have denied any personal or professional wrongdoing. When the video sparked outrage, Google removed it. The company cooperated with Italian authorities and police found the youths, who were sentenced to community service.

The issue is: Who polices peer-to-peer video sites? Some rely on the users to flag inappropriate content. But once the video is out there, what is the responsibility of the company? What responsibility does the user have to avoid posting clearly offensive junk? Stay tuned to YouTube for its conclusion.

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Raising cash through social media

In 2008, The Columbus Foundation pioneered a new online giving resource, called PowerPhilanthropy, connecting central Ohio nonprofit organizations with potential donors. Nonprofits interested in being included provide information on their organization and activities through the online Nonprofit Toolkit located on the Foundation’s website. Potential donors search the PowerPhilanthropy database and read profiles of nonprofits in their community, which include information on their programs, finances, management, and services. Access to this information improves donors' understanding of the organization and helps them decide where to give. Soon, there will be a similar effort underway among Detroit nonprofits. It comes at a time when fundraising is down and the need for additional resources is up. To improve the efforts of various nonprofits to profit from social media fundraising, NonProfit 2.0 (Change.org) offers the following tips (which I am posting verbatim here):

Newsweek said it best: "Suddenly, all the world is a-Twitter." Simple and powerful, Twitter is a must for nonprofit organizations. I created and manage a portal to nonprofits on Twitter @nonprofitorgs and based on my experience using site, I have crafted ten of my favorite Twitter Tips for beginners:

Authenticity before marketing. Have personality. Build community. -- Those nonprofits who are most successful at utilizing social networking Web sites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace know from trial, error, and experience that a “marketing and development approach” on social networking sites does not work. Simply put, it comes across as lame. Traditional marketing and development content is perfectly fine for your Web site and e-mail newsletters, but Web 2.0 is much more about having personality, inspiring conversation, and building online community. Nowhere is this more true than on Twitter. Relax, experiment, let go a bit… find your voice. Be authentic.

Be nice. Be thankful. Reply and Retweet! -- Twitter functions much like Karma. The nicer you are to people in the Twitterverse, they nicer they are to you in return. The more you ReTweet (RT) others, the more they will RT your Tweets in return. And whether it’s Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or YouTube, if someone does something nice for you in the public commons of Web 2.0, it is always a good practice to send them a message of “Thanks… much appreciated!”. Kindness and appreciation will make you stand out from the others and makes an excellent impression.

Follow everyone who follows you. -- This is a hard one for a lot of nonprofits. They want to keep their “Home” view clutter free and controlled and only follow a select few. Honestly, they only want to follow those whose Tweets that they are really interested in reading. But I say this often… “This time it is not about you, it is about them.” Web 1.0 communications is all about us and our messaging i.e, your Web site and e-mail newsletter. Web 2.0 is all about your supporters and their messaging. It’s better to create a personal Twitter profile in order to only follow those select few you are interested in reading, but if you are going out on Twitter behind your organization’s logo a.k.a. avatar, it is a mistake to not follow all your followers in return. Why?

Twitter is about conversation -- You can’t have a conversation on Twitter if you are not following your followers. It is a one-sided relationship. They can’t message you on Twitter if you are not following them. It’s a snub. Let’s face it… people on Twitter want to be followed. That’s what the site is about! How can you build community on Twitter if you won’t even participate with your followers? Have a look around Twitter… you will see the most successful, ReTweeted nonprofits follow everyone who follows them. Use “Favorites” to organize the chaos and feature your most important Tweets! -- So, if you are going to follow everyone who follows your organization (which is hopefully thousands of people) then “favorite” Tweets by those who you are most interested in reading and favorite your most important Tweets. The favorites option on Twitter is a simple, excellent tool to help you organize the chaos.

Don’t tweet about your coffee (unless it is fair trade), the weather, or how tired you are. Provide value to your followers, not chit-chat! -- It’s one thing to chit-chat about the weather, your headache, or how you need coffee to wake up in the morning on your personal profile on Twitter, but it’s quite another if you are active on the Twitterverse via your organizational profile. The messages you send reflect upon your organization. Example of what not to Tweet: “Such-and-such Nonprofit got stuck in traffic this morning. Ugh! I need coffee and a vacation… and I think I am getting a headache!” No one likes a whiner and this just makes it sound like Such-and-Such Nonprofit is not a fun place to work. People follow you because they want good content from your organization on subjects relevant to your mission. Make sure your Tweets provide value and are Re-Tweetable.

Don’t only Tweet your own content -- Twitter is a news source. Participate in news. Tweet articles or blog posts by your favorite newspapers, bloggers, or other nonprofits (yes... other nonprofits! Find allies, build relationships). If it is a good read or a good resource, it reflects well upon your organization that you Tweeted it. There is also a good chance you might get ReTweeted if the article is deemed timely and worthy by the Twitterverse.

Send messages, but not via auto-responders --There are tools out there that will automatically message your new followers. Don’t use them. It’s Spam. It’s not authentic. It’s not human. It's lazy marketing. I think this cartoon sums up auto-responders perfectly. Don’t worry about those that “unfollow” you -- It’s easy to feel slighted when someone stops following you. What did I say? Did I do something wrong? Let it go. Who knows why they followed you in the first place. Give it no more than 3 seconds thought and then move on. Limit your Tweets to 5 per day, and no more than 6! -- I have been polling on Twitter and the Twitterverse has revealed that less is more when it comes to Tweeting.

Twitter is what you make of it. You get out of Twitter what you put into it. This is the same of all Web 2.0 social networking sites. Twitter is a fun, valuable tool that can drive significant traffic to your Web site (start watching your Web site referral logs!) and help build and strengthen your brand in the online world of Web 2.0, but just like Facebook and MySpace, Twitter requires time and energy to produce results. You get out of it what you put into it. If you do one Tweet a week, you will get the results of one Tweet. But if you Tweet 4 times daily Monday through Friday… you will get the results of 20 Tweets weekly.

Again, it’s about community building around your mission and programs. Just having profile on Twitter (or MySpace, or Facebook) does not magically produce any results. You have to work these profiles. Find the person on your staff who loves Web 2.0 and enjoys working the sites and/or find a marketing/pr intern from your local university that needs to do a senior project! If they are getting college credit, then you know they have to stay around for at least a semester.

The advice outlined below is general advice applied to for profits as it is not-for-profits. To all of us, now is the time to experiment and become comfortable with social media. In fact, it is time we embrace it. We should learn to say what we need to say, not just in 30 second or 90 second elevator pitches, but in 140 characters or less. We need to refine our key messaging into the screen of our cell phone, we need to learn to verbalize what we can tweet. And we need to become familiar with how messages are conveyed now and well into the future. Just as my 6 year old can pick up my iPhone to use one of the apps I downloaded for her, soon she will be sending tweets to her friends.

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Juries all a-Twitter

This week, Michigan Lawyers Weekly features a story about jurors tainting themselves by Tweeting from the jury box or accessing the Internet from their mobile phones to learn more about the cases they are presiding on. See Juries all a-Twitter, 23 Mich.L.W.847, July 6, 2009. Like the media, the courts need to adjust to the constantly changing landscape of how we communicate and how we access information. The Internet and mobile devices such as the iPhone or Palm provide jurors and others access to instant information about the cases before them. The Michigan Supreme Court amended rule 2.516 of the Michigan Court Rules to prohibit the use of computers, cell phones or other electronic devices during the trial to obtain information on the case. This is mandatory, not discretionary. The rule was amended in response to a number of cases being thrown out due to curious jurors, researching defendants and witnesses and then Tweeting their opinion before any opinion was rendered.

Social media sites, such as Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace and YouTube also provide excellent opportunities for plaintiff's counsel to mine the Internet for information to throw out a case or force a settlement. Mined appropriately and thoroughly, attorney's can learn a lot about the parties to a lawsuit or potential lawsuit.

And finally, some lawyers are using the Internet, the same way they were using television to argue their client's case in the public eye. Instead of turning to investigative reporters or "problem solvers," they are now turning to the Internet to bolster their client's position.

In the article, I caution attorneys to do their own due diligence and see what is being said about their clients on-line. This includes social media sites such as Twitter, You Tube, Flickr, various blogs and other on-line feeds and sites. The same is true for the opposing party, including opposing counsel.

Attorneys may want to consider retaining PR counselto monitor the Internet and/or use the Internet and social media to preserve, protect and enhance their clients reputation on-line. Attorneys may also want to consider hiring a computer forensics or e-discovery firm to see what information they can find on-line. For now, attorneys can set up Google alerts, RSS Feeds, or find other ways to monitor the media.

Regardless, we all need to do a better job of monitoring the Internet. Just as we should secure our credit report every six-months to monitor for identity theft, we should periodically Google or Bing our name, our company name, client's name or other key terms we should be keeping an eye out for.

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Can you write me a recommendation?

Often times, people will ask you and others to write a recommendation for them on the popular social media site, Linkedin. However, the July 13 & 20, 2009 issue of BusinessWeek (p. 072) has an article warning managers from writing recommendations about their employees on Linkedin as they could be later used by plaintiff's lawyers in "discrimination or termination cases that put an employee's performance at issue". The article predicts that sooner or later, attorney's will begin to mine social media sites for evidence or was to bolster their clients cases. In some cases, The PR Lawyer is aware of cases in which attorney's have set up Facebook accounts just so that they can gather evidence for their clients and use it to force a settlement or bolster their case should it go to trial. Companies should have a blanket policy for their managers to not use Linkedin to make recommendations. If someone is asking for a recommendation, chances are they are looking for a new job. Save the recommendations for their quarterly, bi-annual or yearly review. And always, when using the Internet and social media sites, exercise caution.

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Today’s legal strategies demand public relations

Q&A with Daniel Cherrin, attorney, lobbyist and PR executive High-profile litigation involves not just the defense of the legal claim but also the protection of the client’s public image. Where a case has aroused public or media interest or has the potential, it is vital that attorneys are prepared to face the media. After all, when the damage is done publicly the legal outcome becomes irrelevant.

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, attorney’s through their public relations counsel, can position clients to avoid litigation, minimize risk and protect their reputation, by blending law, policy, politics and strategic communications to provide clients an integrated approach to resolving or avoiding legal problems.

As an attorney, lobbyist and public relations executive, Daniel Cherrin has counseled a wide range of clients during crisis situations providing critical insight and recommendations to deal with situations and how to communicate effectively under less than the best conditions. In the following interview, Daniel draws on his experience in responding to questions about using public relations as an effective part of a legal strategy.

Q: Why do lawyers need to be concerned about public relations?

A: Today’s business environment demands an aggressive strategy to resolve issues legally while protecting one’s reputation publicly. Unfortunately, most people do not realize they need PR until they get a call from a reporter, subpoena from Congress or it is otherwise too late. As a result, lawyers need to be more than legal counselors or advocates. They need to be familiar enough with how perception is created within the public eye and how to use the media effectively to manage that perception. Therefore, the potential impact any litigation will have on a client’s image, reputation, investor relations and future business must be considered in creating a legal strategy.

In preparing for litigation or creating a legal strategy to meet a client’s objectives attorneys must consider the impact on their client’s business and reputation. Reputations take years to create and only seconds to destroy. Engaging public relations counsel early can create a comprehensive strategy that will help clients succeed.

Q. Why is it important to have relationships with public relations experts?

A. In today’s economy decisions are made based upon perception and reputation. Therefore, it is important to have the necessary relationships to make sure a client’s reputation is protected should any litigation become public or even to help position the client to remain out of the public eye. But in establishing relationships with public relations firms, it is important that the PR counsel be sensitive to the legal ramifications of their actions as it relates to protecting the company’s reputation.

To protect a client’s legal interests and also to preserve the client’s reputation publicly, counsel should consider engaging public relations counsel early in the process, so as to develop a complementary strategy and get advice on how to deal with the media and protect the client’s public relations interests. In developing a broad legal strategy that embraces both legal and public relations concerns, lawyers need to look beyond the facts and include public relations concerns as a comprehensive strategy. Public relations counsel can assist attorneys by managing the public relations issues while the attorneys focus on the traditional elements of mounting a case. If both the legal and the public relations components are to succeed, it is essential that both legal counsel and public relations counsel coordinate their efforts.

Q. How can lawyers protect their client’s reputation?

A. A lawyer who is going to represent a client outside the courtroom must become more comfortable in talking freely about their client’s case. Lawyers, trained to protect client confidences and to control information, have a natural tendency to answer only the questions that are asked and to give no more information than is necessary to resolve the issue. In the view of the public, however, information and communication are the two factors that build trust and go a long way toward preserving one’s reputation.

A PR firm can train attorneys in media relations and crisis management so they can feel more comfortable in talking with the media or dealing with the immediate concerns of a crisis. A public relations counselor can employ specific tactics to protect the reputation of a company or an individual leading a company while reinforcing issues legally. For example, in the public eye, we are presumed guilty if we respond to a reporter’s question with “no comment.” A better way to respond to a question you do not want to answer or are not ready to answer is to deflect it, by saying something like: “That is a very good question, one that we are looking into at the moment. As soon as we learn something new, we will get back to you promptly.” Lawyers must be more diligent in looking at the big picture in protecting their clients’ interests in the court of law as well as in the court of public opinion.

Q. Can attorneys handle the PR directly?

A. Given the stakes in today’s litigation environment, attorneys may find it helpful to develop a relationship with a public relations firm, so that it can be ready to assist on short notice if and when it is needed. For example, some public relations firms are known for their expertise in crisis and reputation management while others focus more on soft promotions and publicist work. Some public relations firms focus specifically on litigation communications practice, and even have attorneys and registered lobbyists on staff. Regardless of the case, it helps to establish those relationships early.

Q: If a company would like to learn more about protecting their reputation when faced with potential litigation, how can they reach you?

A:I can be reached by email at dcherrin@northcoaststrategies.com or by telephone at (313) 300-0932.

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