Crisis Counsel: When Legal and Public Relations Collaborate

July 22, 2016

[tim ellis/getty images]
[tim ellis/getty images]

When a crisis occurs — due to a product recall; alleged unethical, negligent or criminal behavior; or the loss of life — all hands are on deck, but not necessarily working in harmony. As the legal and communications departments are first responders, they often bring very different approaches, sometimes resulting in an inability to reach consensus and to provide a timely response in the fast-paced world of traditional, digital, mobile and social media channels.

While both departments share a common goal of protecting the organization’s reputation and avoiding costly litigation, collaboration during a crisis still remains challenging. For some communications pros and lawyers, their affiliation often mimics a love-hate relationship.

As PR professionals, we are on a clock that moves at lightning speed, with social media platforms routinely framing the narrative and the optics. When there is little or no concrete information, decisions must be made quickly or else the public narrative might be woefully inaccurate or highly damaging to the organization.

For your legal colleagues, who are more risk-averse, gathering as much information as possible prior to issuing an initial response is the more prudent course of action. In today’s 24/7 global media cycle, and as social media sharing takes less than a second, communications pros and the legal team must significantly improve their collaboration to effectively protect the organization’s reputation and bottom line.

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