Reputation 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 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

Picture this scenario: A verdict is rendered. The opposing side goes to the media with misleading information about the case. The media reports stories containing this misleading information. Your firm’s and your client’s reputations suffer due to these stories. What do you do?

You roll up your sleeves and get down to business, that’s what. With online news easily accessible and streaming in real-time, the misleading stories have a good chance of popping up first when your firm’s name is typed into a search engine. Take control of your reputation and consider the following crucial steps to enact in order to counter the potential effects of misleading information and bad publicity.

Research

The first step is to find each article that contains the misleading or factually inaccurate information. Using Google News or Yahoo! News is a good starting point. Collect all the articles and compile the reporters’ names and contact information. Often a reporter’s e-mail appears at the bottom of an article. Also, it may be appropriate to go above and beyond tracking the existing stories and research other media outlets where a counter story would be suitable. Think radio, television or podcasts. It never hurts to reach out to media who did not initially cover the story and give them the correct information on your case.

Release

After the media list and reporter contact information has been assembled, we need to tell them what really happened. Consider writing a press release that addresses the misleading points or incorrect information in the story and counter these with the real facts and your own valid assertions and analysis. Sending this release with a personal message to each reporter will help give them all the information they need to write a counter-story. Also, you MUST get the original reporter or his supervisor on the phone to make sure he understands inaccurate information was published and new, correct information is on its way.

Write

It is imperative that you use every medium possible to make your voice heard. Consider social media outreach via your company website, blog, Facebook or Twitter. Make sure all your posts are searchable through Google, Yahoo! and RSS feeds. This increases the likelihood that your story appears first on search engines. Contact other legal blogs about the story and perhaps they will support you in your efforts. It is also a good idea to e-mail all your personal contacts about the issue, clarifying the information currently out there and sending them your press release.

When you’re in the middle of a reputation crisis, it’s essential to act quickly and with integrity. Understand that a story can be negative towards your firm or client but still factual, in which case it’s important to contact the reporter and give valuable information that only you can provide, or your “side’s” analysis. Monitoring and managing your reputation takes some effort, but it pays off when your firm’s or client’s name needs to be clarified or cleared. We’ve all heard the adage “reputation takes a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy,” so roll up your sleeves and take charge today.

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