The law does not exist in a vacuum. Lawyers operate, (as they should), within the clearly defined framework of a court room. Their clients, however, operate within the wider world of competing media, political and regulatory pressures.
In that wider world, solving the legal aspect of a problem is often not the same as solving the whole problem – and clients increasingly want their whole problem solved.
This is where strategic communications can help. The way in which a company or individual communicates with their audiences can be critical to achieving both short-term and long-term success.
From the impact on Airbnb’s business following multi-jurisdictional legal and regulatory setbacks, to the recent controversial takeover of GKN by Melrose Industries, business strategies and reputations are made, and can be broken, by the media, politicians and regulators.
The legal strategy comes first
To protect and enhance our client’s goals and reputation outside the courtroom, the starting point is a clear understanding of the legal strategy, and how effective communications can help reinforce it.
This requires specialist expertise and experience. The rigours of the law and the requirements of the court demand skills and disciplines in addition to those found in typical corporate, financial or personal PR.
A clear understanding of the legal strategy means having command of the facts. Often, additional insights can be gained from primary and secondary research. Only then, with a clear appreciation of the opportunities and risks, can your message be deployed.
Implementing a communications strategy in support of your legal action can take many forms. It can range from journalist briefings to multi-jurisdictional crisis management. Whatever the approach, it is always needs to be carefully coordinated with the legal team.
No comment is not an option
The information age abhors a vacuum. If you say nothing, the empty space will be filled by someone else – an uninformed commentator, a detractor, or your opponent. These comments will then sit online like a stain – always a quick Google search away, to unfairly shape opinions and first impressions.
Reputations are protected and enhanced by proactively managing issues and enhancing advantages before, during and after a legal action. By setting your own narrative, you can manage the current reputation risk and build a reputation that can withstand future attacks.
A fully integrated communications strategy can complement the way you act now and how you can rise to the demands of any issue.
Lawyers now need to take into consideration more than just winning in the courtroom. The legal strategy always comes first – but it’s not the full story.