Crisis, Reputation Work Slowly Bringing Legal And PR To An Understanding

Today’s Ticker points to a story on the Corporate Counsel website that talks about the relationship between a company’s general counsel and PR in a crisis situation.

“There are people with a unique skill required for responding to old or new media: they’re called PR professionals,” the post quotes Toyota GC, Christopher Reynolds.

The article is indicative of a newly-developed relationship between PR pros and legal counsel; one that recognizes the need to prepare and react to crisis situations on a moment’s notice.

Weber Shandwick just released a summary from its study “Managing Legal and Reputation Risk: A View from the Field,” where legal pros acknowledge the need to prepare for a crisis, to tie that response to needs across the business, and to have a clear and consistent message.

“Lawyers and communicators have to pretty quickly come to the table and understand each other’s perspective,” Micho Spring, chair of Weber’s global corporate practice told PRNewser during a phone call. “It’s no longer about assessing vulnerabilities and making sure you’re prepared. It’s evolving the culture.”

It’s also an “evolving relationship,” Spring adds.

Where there are still areas to improve upon, Spring points to instances where CEOs took the fifth during Congressional appearances, or times when a company or brand defends itself by saying that it stuck to the letter of the law, even when that wasn’t effective.

Still, there’s been progress.

“Legal issues are clearly important, but not the ones that necessarily should rule the day… The legal implications of an action must be considered and weighed equally with business decisions,” says one former GC in the study’s summary.

Even with the warm and fuzzies setting in between legal and PR, there’s work to be done. Not every legal or PR team is enlightened. During the PRWeek NeXT conference, Richard Edelman advocated for going for the GC “jugular” when necessary.

“They’re thinking in the 1980s,” he said, while PR is rooted in the present.

So we have a ways to go, but Spring sees a path.

“It’s making sure that you [PR] understand their [legal’s] purpose” and vice versa, Spring said, particularly in an industry that’s heavily regulated.