Tag Archives: Crisis Management

Leveraging Your Reputation: Are you ready for a crisis?

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

You’ve probably been busy at work, in addition to dealing with all the responsibilities that you have. But have you ever thought about what you would do in a crisis? It’s not good to wait until something bad happens; you should be prepared in case you have to deal with an event that can negatively affect your reputation. Here are a few things to think about to get a plan in action:

1 – Put together a team. Some people on your crisis communication team can include your firm’s senior partner or one of the other partners, your public relations specialist, the leader in your firm who is closest to issues, any outside counsel you may use, and your online communications expert. You should also choose someone to be the dedicated spokesperson if an incident occurs.

2 – Consider your audience. In order to prepare for a crisis, you should think about your potential audience, which is internal and external: employees, government agencies, the community, vendors and suppliers, clients, and of course, the media. Because your audience is varied, think about how you could effectively communicate with each group. Develop important media connections, and strengthen your existing ones inside and outside your firm.

3 – Prepare your online presence. You most likely have a website that anyone can see, but prepare a “dark” section of your website that is not public, which can go live in case you need to communicate with the public during a crisis. Some possible sections could be a newsroom and a place to post statements, links and special contact information. Also decide which social media platforms you will communicate through and how you will communicate internally with your staff. Analytical tools for your online networks are also important to have ready, in addition to someone who will be responsible for analyzing online activity from other sources.

If you are prepared, you won’t get blindsided if something horrible happens. Information moves rapidly, and you want to be ready to respond just as quickly.

Leveraging Your Reputation: When a crisis strikes

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

At some point in your legal career, you will experience a problem. Why do I say that? Because it’s inevitable. The seriousness of that problem can vary, of course — whether it involves a client who spoke out-of-line or an attorney who secretly leaked information to the media or the entire firm being in the midst of a scandal.

Thinking about such potential problems begs the question: What can you and your firm do reactively when a problem arises?

Tell your own bad news

If a crisis strikes at your firm, always be the first to tell your own bad news. Setting up a separate website page addressing the crisis or problem creates a simple way for concerned clients and media to get in touch with you and receive information about what has happened or is happening – in your own words. Assure your current clients that they are still in good hands. If you don’t want to create an entire webpage, the least you should do is issue a statement and send it to local and potentially national media. Make the crisis your primary concern and clearly communicate what you are doing to resolve it.

Take the high road

In the fast-paced world of internet communication, it’s likely there will be at least one reporter, one blogger, one website, or one Twitter user that seeks to tarnish your image, especially in the face of a crisis. When this happens, stay true to the legal brand you’ve built and assure your clients, followers, supporters and friends that you are taking steps to make it right (even letting them in on what those steps are). Resist the urge to attack your attackers, because THAT will truly tarnish your image. Instead, reach out to those reporters and ask them what information they would like to know. Helping them understand will help you ease tension and criticism.

Get by with a little help from your friends

As you work to solve the problem(s) and find that your plans A and B are not working, ask for help. Gather teams internally to think of potential workable solutions and resolutions that you might not have thought of yet. Additionally, being open with the entire firm about the problem reinforces a “we’re-all-in-this-together” team mentality which will help keep employee morale steady. Before you know it, your firm will have overcome the crisis and you will be participating as an expert in a panel titled “Responding to Legal Crises: the Do’s & Don’ts.”

Leveraging Your Reputation: PR 2.011

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

We started with Public Relations 1.0, the basics of PR and traditional, off-line methods for getting attention for your brand. Then we moved to Public Relations 2.0, when social media and an online-focus took over the scene. Now we come to Public Relations 2.011, a time of endless possibilities (and predictions) for PR in 2011 and beyond.

The legal public relations industry is definitely seeing its fair share of forecasts. Formal press releases have seemingly disappeared while social networks and real-time updates have become commonplace for law firms’ strategic-marketing plans. Consider these suggestions for your own legal marketing plan as we move into another decade.

Meeting the Man — or Woman — Behind the (Social) Media

Arranging meetings between attorneys and newspaper reporters or television news producers is not out-of-the-ordinary in this business. In fact, we very much encourage these meetings and try to make them happen as often as possible to establish relationships between reporters and informed and personable legal sources (you). But what about those reporters who only use social media platforms, such as legal bloggers? Because they are social media-centric, is face-time off the table? Not at all. There is a human attached to those typing fingers, and that blogger still needs quality sources, fresh content and new ideas. Think about the media in your social network. Identify the ones in the same city as you and reach out to suggest a face-to-face meeting.

Renewing the Focus on Crisis Communications and Reputation Management

YouTube videos can tally millions of views within hours of being uploaded, while one tweet from Rhode Island can be re-tweeted across all 50 states in less than 15 minutes. Now that the speed at which information is shared tops the speedometer, attorneys and law firms must be ever mindful of potential crises and their online and offline reputation. Especially with the emergence of Wikileaks this past year and a public demand for freedom of information, attorneys should be mindful of their legal documents and what to share with or guard from the public. A firm’s public relations professionals must be strategic counselors to determine what can go right and wrong in a matter of minutes, and become skilled at expecting the unexpected. Have a plan in place and you’ll be ahead in the race.

Taking the Daily or Weekly Temperature of Media Exposure

I’ve seen many firms who do not place much importance on the specific value of the exposure they receive. Rather, they only care that exposure WAS received. But no public relations effort can be valuable unless it can be measured. There’s a big difference between “warm” and “room temperature,” so make sure you measure your media to get hot – it can increase your firm’s website hits and even client count. Law firms and attorneys should expect their PR agencies to measure the value of all placements achieved and report the results each week. But first of all, it is important to determine the types of results that matter most to your firm—whether it is website visitors, Twitter followers, blog comments, LinkedIn connections, stories in print media or clients gained. Doing so early on makes it easier to assess the true value of your media exposure. And the forecast for 2011 – hot, hot, hot!

Leveraging Your Reputation: Conflict management

Tom Ciesielka is president of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Some people might think that “preparing for the worst” is a pessimistic way of living. Why should we constantly think about the things that could go wrong? Why can’t we focus on the positive and happily go about our business? The reality is that preparing for the worst doesn’t reflect a half-empty outlook on life; rather, it is a smart business move, especially in the legal industry. Problems arise, and when they do, you and your firm will be much better of if you are prepared and know what to do if and when a problem occurs.

The trick is to be proactive instead of reactive, and the following outlines a number of suggestions on how to prepare for and handle the worst of times, because it can’t always be the best of times.

Have a Plan

Being prepared and understanding the possibilities for crises can help your firm handle them when they arise. Think about the way military trains even when not engaged in war. They are planning and practicing for specific situations so that they will be victorious. Proper preparation involves identifying and analyzing trends, issues and threats in the environment that could affect your firm, creating a strategy and an action plan for implementation and evaluating the effectiveness of this plan. Make sure your attorneys know who is in charge of what, and communicate the delegation of tasks clearly.

Keep Your Cool

When a major problem comes up, the worst thing to do is break down, which has the potential to create a negative ripple effect both inside and outside your firm. A few basic things to remember: be completely honest about everything you say, frequently provide information that is accurate and readily accessible to the public and the media, have a spokesperson available at all times to answer questions and dissolve speculation, and constantly monitor news coverage about your firm so that you can quickly respond to what the public and media are saying.

“No Comment” No-No

Sometimes attorneys are wary of making comments on an unfortunate situation or legal complication due to the fear that something will be said to make the situation worse. Of course there are times when you should postpone making a robust statement about an event or crisis, but always avoid “no comment.” For example, if reporters contact you about a certain situation that you have yet to know about, it is perfectly appropriate to say you will get back to them as soon as you learn more and get your facts straight. However not saying anything at all can actually be worse than saying something due to the lingering possibility for assumptions of guilt or responsibility. Take charge of the situation and be prepared to explain how it will be resolved.