Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 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 is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dec. 21 is long gone, and the world didn’t end, as the Mayans supposedly predicted. Even though that day is history and people have continued their routines, I still think the topic is interesting, especially when attorneys are involved. I read about one attorney in the article “UFO lovers, light-seekers and lawyers await Maya end of days”, by Alexandra Alper, who got caught up in the hype because she traveled to Mexico from Brazil to see how the world would change on that day. She seemed sincerely inspired and impressed when she saw people meditating around her, and the other participants were excited, too.
I can understand why people would want to go there, especially if they’re younger and want some kind of adventure, but I was surprised an attorney would take the event so seriously. Once her pilgrimage was over and she went back to Brazil, what did her clients and coworkers think? It seems like it would tarnish her professional image, not just for believing what others were calling a “hoax,” but whom she was hanging around with as well. Some people were expecting UFOs there, and others saw this as part of their lifelong quest. Since the attorney was quoted along with the others, it didn’t really add up to good publicity for her. Instead, attorneys should be associated with credible people to have a good public image.
An example of negative associations can be found right here in Chicago with the Drew Peterson trial. His attorneys have publicly battled each other with charges of unethical conduct and mishandling of the case. The most recent incident is calling the police over a threatening email. At this point, with all the media coverage of that case and the attorneys’ problems with each other, their reputation has certainly suffered. When it comes to publicity, a good public image should be the goal, not publicity for publicity’s sake.
It’s important to make sure that your reputation is solid, and if anything is going to be shared publicly about a case or your firm, get approval, and find out if there are any people or situations involved that may cause problems. For instance, if a reporter wants to quote you or someone else at your firm, find out if you are allowed to talk and how much you can divulge about a case. Afterall, you shouldn’t become guilty by association or do something that will make you look bad.