Legal and Defamation Public Relations
The Law and Reputation Management
During many of the crises and acute issues where we are engaged, Chelgate works very closely with our clients’ lawyers.
But even before any final legal resolution, reputation and perception matter, and can shape or influence any ultimate legal settlement, whether in court or out-of-court. How you manage opinion and information in the early stages of a crisis will directly impact public opinion well into the future. If there is an adversarial legal aspect to the crisis, the other side will be taking account of public opinion when they make decisions about the positions they adopt.
In Court, an organisation with a good reputation, which is thought to have reacted honestly, transparently and with proper recognition of social accountability through critical stages of the crisis, is likely to find a more sympathetic hearing than if it had been evasive, dishonest, taciturn or unresponsive.
Working with Lawyers
Sometimes there can be understandable tension between the differing needs for reputation protection and legal protection. A typical situation may be one where the legal advice may be to say nothing, or say as little as possible, minimising any unnecessary risk. But reputation protection requirements may demand that the organisation informs, explains and is seen to be accountable and transparent.
Lawyers who work in crisis management and reputation protection increasingly have a good understanding of the needs to balance both areas of concern. Similarly, firms like Chelgate ensure that no sensitive communications take place that have not been checked with the client’s legal advisers. An effective client advisory team sees lawyers and PR advisers working in close cooperation to ensure the best balanced outcome for the client.
Where the crisis is linked to a Criminal (or potentially criminal) case there can also be a high level of aggressive media intrusion into the lives of the individuals involved, their families and their loved ones. There are a number of response measures available, some possibly involving legal action, others closer to the field of media relations. We expect to work with our client’s lawyers to agree and help implement an urgent strategy designed to provide the fullest and most effective protection possible.
Many of Chelgate’s crisis assignments result from referrals by lawyers who have seen how we work. Even where a client has existing and effective PR resources, it is recognised that Crisis and Acute Issues Management is a specialist area, where different rules apply. Experience and specific crisis expertise are at a premium.
In the same way, Chelgate will often recommend a law firm to a client. The firm of solicitors to whom they have entrusted commercial contracts, employment issues and property matters may be excellent, but they may well not have the particular expertise to handle high profile litigation or defamation situations. Chelgate has worked with many lawyers over the years, and we know firms and individuals whom we would recommend without hesitation. We also recognise that the same firm may not be right for every client. So where we make a recommendation, we try also to take account of culture, style, size and situation.