Times have changed. In the past, the public had a limited number of resources in which to secure real-time information. They had to form their opinion based on information that the major news outlets provided them. Today, we are in the age of information. Because of the Internet, any subject that the public wishes to “dig deeper” into is just a click away. This is why – if you or your brand has acquired legal problems – you should expect that the public will know the details of your case.
Five professionals with knowledge in legal public relations (PR) or crisis management have provided the following PR tips that you should employ if you ever find yourself in legal trouble while you are in the public eye.
“Because of the Internet, the public may have access to detailed information regarding any legal case. This is exactly why many public figures get into trouble. They lie. Your public image is already in jeopardy. If you are caught being dishonest when you discuss the case, you have dug yourself into an even deeper hole.”
– William Mauzy, owner of Mauzy Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Own up to your mistakes.
“You would be surprised by how forgiving the public can be if you do not try to run and hide from a situation. When John F. Kennedy admitted his wrongdoing and misjudgements after the disastrous Cuban Missile Crisis, his approval ratings quickly rose. Although he was not charged with a crime, this situation proves that the public may in fact forgive you if you simply fess up.”
– Thomas Beedem, a Minneapolis Long Term Disability Lawyer.
Try to use humor.
“Depending on what your specific legal dilemma might be, it might be wise to consider using humor to lighten the situation. Of course, humor would not be appropriate if you were charged with a crime that involved a tragedy.”
– Mark Herman, criminal defense attorney and owner of Expungement Lawyer MN.
Make sure that you have thought carefully about your response.
“When it is time to face the public, do not make the mistake of coming up with a response on the spot. Make sure that you have thought carefully about what you will say. After all, every word matters in a fragile situation. Saying one wrong thing can mean the end of your public image as you know it.”
– Deb Carney, PR spokesperson for Erotas Building Corporation.
Do not hide behind a logo.
“During a crisis, do not hide behind your brand or your company logo. If you have a social media profile, for example, your profile image should not be your company logo. People want to see your face so that they know there is a human behind the image. This is not the time to advertise.”
– Joshua London of Brockton Hunter Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Make it easy for reporters to get information.
“When you fail to cooperate with reporters, you should know that doing so might – in a way – turn them against you. On the other side, providing them with as much information as you can and being openly available will help you develop a better relationship and it will work in your favor. This is especially important when your brand has come under legal fire.”
– Chris Ochs of Windsor Companies.
Carefully monitor what is said about your brand.
"When your reputation is in trouble (such as when you have been accused of a crime), spend time monitoring what has been said about you in the media before you make a statement. This will allow you to form a much more educated and effective response."
– Barb Tresbesch of Corporate Mechanical.
Keep your company organized.
"When your organization is in legal trouble, it is reasonable to believe that panic will ensue within the office. It is crucial that you do what you can to maintain order so that everyone can work together to figure out the best possible solution."
– Jessica Tesdall of Central Roofing Company.
Make sure that you fully understand the impact of your response.
"Before you make a statement to the public regarding your legal problems, carefully study the possible influence that your response will have on your business. How have other organizations facing similar situations responded and how did their response impact their business and their revenue?"
– Mitchell Otterson of Altemp Mechanical.
Carefully decide what channels you should utilize to address the public.
"During a time of crisis, it is important to consider the location in which you can best connect with the public. For example, will you response via your company blog? How will you handle the comments that may arise under your response? How will these comments impact your brand reputation?"
– Denise Raeker. Pro Vision Construction.
Get ahead of the problem.
"If your organization is in legal trouble, begin considering your PR strategy as early as possible. This will allow you to get ahead of the crisis. Create a detailed plan for your response to ensure the security of your reputation and your productivity."
– Dean Bjorkstrand, CEO of Dean Bjorkstrand Landscaping.
Create a team or hire a professional that is dedicated to your PR.
"If you have the resources, hire someone to focus solely on your PR strategy. When you are in legal trouble, your most productive option is to put all of your focus on the case itself. That is why you should allow someone to help you address the public. It should not be done alone."
– Jeff Winter of AmeriCare.