Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When PR and Legal Advisors Collide

In Friday’s Reuters article Jamie Dimon was lauded by the PR crisis management industry and warned by the legal beagles. Clearly, the two groups should spend more time talking to each other. The best path for any corporate leader in a similar position – and there do seem to be increasing numbers in this club – is to come forth with an aggressive message that is as clear and open as the crisis communication gurus suggest while also taking care avoid legal words that lawyers will later pounce on.

As experts in communication, we mostly agree that some message is better than no message. The legal advisors have done a considerable amount of damage over the years by shushing their clientele, a strategy mostly born of arrogance on the part of the lawyers, plus a healthy dose of warranted fear for what the CEO, CFO, COO, etc. will say. For example, while dispensing words of wisdom and talking about the "court of public opinion", the public relations people, on the other hand, will not have spent much time in the courtroom seeing their strategically crafted message displayed on a ten by ten foot screen to a jury of Jamie Dimon's peers day after day.

Marry the lawyers’ caution and experience, with the legal ramifications of being too clever, with the count on honesty to carry the day philosophy. This strategy allows most any misstep to at least get some salve applied while the real healing begins. 

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