Leveraging Your Reputation: Think before doing stunts

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.

The classic conflict between attorneys who want to keep quiet and public relations professionals who want transparency in today’s online media world will perhaps never be fully resolved. However, because of the potential liability of publicity stunts and events, attorneys should be contacted when there are risky promotions.

Here are a few things to consider when doing promotions:

When It Really Won’t Serve the Brand: A company wants to creatively communicate their innovation. However, creativity is most effective when it stays in the character of the product or service. Corporate counsel should be consulted because if something goes wrong, they might be the ones defending the brand in court.

When the Only Value of the Stunt is the Stunt: When a company wants to use a publicity stunt in order to draw more media attention, these questions should be considered: What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want people to remember about your business? If we didn’t do this stunt, how would that impact the objectives in the marketing plan? If the stunt has a purpose beyond getting some videos to go viral, then it would be good to consult the attorneys and the chief marketing officer.

A Surprise Might Turn Into a Crisis: Publicity stunts are created to quickly draw attention to something, and surprises can be effective in the pursuit to be different. Yet attorneys should be asked: What could go wrong? What are the liabilities if someone is not amused, or the shock is so great that it causes physical or emotional harm?

This is the time for attorneys, their clients and their public relations staff to work together. Otherwise, once an event or stunt goes awry, the negative impact on everyone’s reputation may be difficult to undo. It is much better to be safe than sorry.

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