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Anticipate before you litigate in the court of public opinion

by | May 2, 2019 | Analysis, Public Relations

Is your team working on a high-profile case that you know is newsworthy? Legal PR can put a firm on the map, and lack of it can lead to the firm flying under the radar. How the message is shared makes all the difference. It must be done appropriately, maturely, and within the limits set by governing bar associations.

No matter what side you’re representing, how you handle spreading the message can have an impact on not only the decision handed down in this instance, but cases to come.

Coupled with other marketing avenues such as social media campaigns, legal PR can be central to getting the message out to journalists and ultimately, potential clients. Consider these points when establishing a communications plan for litigation:

Privacy please!

The first thing to consider is your client’s privacy. With court information easily accessible via public record, the media getting wind of a case is sometimes unavoidable. Do you have permission to take this public? If not, put a halt on the media plan.

Timing is everything

If permission has been granted, then the next question is timing. Before you take the story public, think, is now a good time? What other events are being covered that relate to this case? What stage of the case are you in? Has a ruling been made? Will there be an appeal? Did the judge issue a gag order? Don’t let impatience find you on the wrong side of the gavel and winning verdict.

Is it newsworthy?

Does the case involve a social issue that’s been making headlines such as the #MeToo movement? Is there a celebrity or prominent public figure involved? Is the story so unique that it has gained attention on the airwaves and in print? Multimillion-dollar verdicts, precedent-setting decisions, or other news-making outcomes will also find themselves making headlines. Be sure to bring attention to the connection.

Who will speak?

Whether the lead council on the case or the client, designate a spokesperson to let the public and the media become familiar with the face of the case. Know that this person’s history will earn its place in the spotlight, so choose someone who won’t crumble under pressure. Make sure they are the only person permitted to speak and that they know the message inside and out, deliver it consistently, and know how much to discuss—on or off the record.

Anticipate

Things can get hectic, especially in high profile cases with national importance, but establishing a plan during the calm before the storm can control chaos. Plan ahead to avoid mistakes. Distribute a press release and talking points to make sure the facts are straight. Whether or not you proactively seek media exposure, know that calls and emails might come in, even with a press release distributed. Issuing consistent statements, holding news conferences, and providing updates when relevant can help put out the fire.

Call in back up

If things get too hectic for your marketing department to handle, consider reaching out to an outside agency that specializes in legal PR. They can devote resources to keeping inquiries organized, ensuring the message does not get lost or misinterpreted, keeping track of corrections to be made, and serving as a buffer between those involved with the case and the media.

An effective legal PR plan can ensure your message is controlled, tasteful and handled correctly.

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Julie Talenfeld
Julie Talenfeld is the president of BoardroomPR, , a full service PR and marketing firm based in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

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