The Best of National Law Journal 2012 features Media & Communication Strategies among its nominees for best public relations firm and crisis firm. The National Law Journal offers a survey for professionals working in or with the legal industry to vote for their peers in numerous categories in addition to public relations, including e-discovery and private investigation services. The survey is open until March 31, 2012.
Posts Tagged ‘legal pr’
In January, MACStrategies President Scott Sobel presented a seminar about media training to the Legal Firm Media Professionals, a group of top legal marketers and public relations professionals in the Washington, DC area.
Beth Huffman, director of media relations at Dechert law firm, praised Scott’s presentation:
“Thanks to Scott Sobel who put on a FABULOUS meeting in January on media training… for those who would like to get a private screening of the training tape, or learn more, he is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The last few years have had organizations that the public has instilled trust in turn out to be hiding alleged abuse: Penn State University, Syracuse University, The Catholic Church and, most recently, a number of Los Angeles schools (these allegations of course impact teacher associations and un ions). Alleged victims have aligned with attorneys in lawsuits that are renditions of their predecessors and become submerged in a snowball effect.
You may recall that we warned you in our previous blog concerning sexual predator allegations at LA Unified Schools (the blog was entitled, “Spotlight on PR: Maintaining Trust)” to check your own association or organization for possible cases as our experience indicates these kinds of cases cause copy cat or snow ball effects … well this is just what is happening. Now, the Boy Scouts of America is facing litigation in California that may require the Scouts to reveal every alleged sex offender recorded since the founding of the Scouts. A boy in California was abused years ago and the perpetrator was the scoutmaster. The scoutmaster was in jail for two years but has since been released. The Boy Scouts of America has its own internal mechanism for resolving instances of sexual abuse, but a lawsuit is pushing for the Boy Scouts to announce who these sex offenders are in an effort to possibly prevent future abuse. A ruling is not expected until April.
However, the Boy Scouts of America has its reputation to manage immediately with this lawsuit. The lawsuit could become an international crisis. The organization says it has an internal mechanism used to manage internal issues between scout masters and boy scouts, but the public has no idea what that really is.
Transparency and cooperation with alleged victims and community organizations with stakes in the tragedy would be the best places to start. We recognize legal counsel and business considerations are probably advising against complete transparency but there are a few obvious communications tactics that can protect legal standing but also satisfy public and organizational needs at the same time. For instance, the Boy Scouts of America website provides no mention of the lawsuit. This could appear as insensitive to the public while trying to pretend the scandal and underlying issue just will go away.
A Huffington Post article describing this case begs the question what is the Boy Scouts of America hiding? Why the seeming resistance to show their internal database and methods of disciplining alleged sex offenders? The organization should keep in mind that it might lose membership and financial support if the public cannot trust the Boy Scouts of America with their young men and membership or prospective members will become even more skittish if the Scouts appear to be hiding something.
Obviously, the case of the Boy Scouts will continue to evolve but we have a final caution for association and organizations which could also be vulnerable: get your house in order because that snow ball could turn into an avalanche and roll in your direction.
Recently, MACStrategies President Scott Sobel commented to Bloomberg Newswire about the unusual communications methods Spirit Airlines implemented in response to new laws requiring disclosure of hidden fees. Spirit Airlines issued a press release, an ad, and email to customers criticizing the U.S. Department of Transportation and a U.S. Senator.
More Good News For the PR Industry: New PR Boutiques International Survey Predicts Optimistic Forecast for Boutique PR Firms in 2012 — The Power of Social Media Cited as the Year’s Major Communication EventTuesday, January 17th, 2012
Respondents to a new PR Boutiques International (PRBI) survey of worldwide boutique public relations agencies predict moderate to high growth for their businesses in 2012, a reflection of the increasing recognition that these specialized firms deliver real value in a challenging economy.
“The boutique PR firm is more appealing than ever to clients because our structure and senior expertise yields results,” said PRBI president Bill Cowen, CEO of Metrospective Communications of Philadelphia, in a news release. “Today companies need insightful and accurate advice, superb execution, and flexibility to adapt to constantly changing conditions, which is exactly the value proposition that our members provide.”
“As a founding member of PRBI, Media & Communications Strategies in Washington, DC is also experiencing a kind of client epiphany regarding choosing senior counsel and the best collaborative teams coming from our PRBI concept as opposed to hiring a ‘one-size-fits-all’ traditional agency model,” agreed Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies.
How social media helped to incite the revolutions in the Middle East was tapped by respondents as the biggest milestone in 2011 that proves the power of PR, followed by the heightened public hype and awareness around the technology world (including the death of Steve Jobs) and the use of social media to help turn Occupy Wall Street into a global phenomenon tied for second. All member agencies responding to the survey reported that their confidence level about the business environment was either medium (72 percent) or high (28 percent), while 78 percent predicted moderate growth in 2012. Two out of three reported that the perceived value of the PR boutique has increased during the economic recession, because companies see that they get more value for their investment (38 percent) and clients value the hands-on role of senior, experienced practitioners (38 percent).
The power of social media was cited by 44 percent of respondents as the major trend impacting communications in 2012, followed by the economic recession and its impact on spending (33 percent). The difficulty of telling a company story in a crowed marketplace was voted the biggest communication challenge that clients face in the coming year. Conversely the most significant opportunity facing companies today lies in telling that story through engaging, compelling media and channels, including the strategic use of social media.
Rather than predicting that social media will be the PR “magic bullet” for all clients, PRBI members instead view it as a tool that must be powered by engaging content and strategically integrated into the enterprise’s communication program.
“The cost effectiveness of PR, and the ability of senior practitioners like PRBI members to devise the best way to tell a compelling story in a crowded marketplace, is a key differentiator going forward and the reason why we are optimistic about 2012,” concluded Cowen.
PRBI, a worldwide collaborative network of firms, includes 32 agencies operating in 13 countries, spanning the globe from Argentina to South Korea. Members of PRBI represent companies ranging from international conglomerates to Fortune 500, trade associations, and fast growing firms in industries such as technology, energy, financial services, government, tourism, education, lifestyle and healthcare.
The Associated Press reported late last week that a federal judge ruled that shield laws that cover journalists do not correspond to bloggers. The ruling has us wondering do shield laws protect public relations practitioners.
Crystal L. Cox blogs from her home in Eureka, Montana. Kevin Padrick, a subject of many of Cox’s blog posts, sued for defamation after Cox called him a thug and a thief because of how he managed bankruptcy proceedings with Obsidian Finance Group LLC.
This case shows the lack of case law protecting nontraditional media such as blogs. Cox was vulnerable due to lacking affiliation with a legitimate news outlet, having no journalism degree, and that shield law does not cover civil actions for defamation. Cox provided no adherence to journalist ethics or fact checking but said she was a journalist having written over 400 blogs the last 5 years.
This example raises a red flag for PR pros who post a news release without verifying information for accuracy. PR pros are not covered under shield law, which is why PR pros generally ask clients to indemnify them. PR pros affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America strive to follow its code of ethics. However, PR pros can still endanger their credibility with an incorrect news release and face legal damages like those that Cox has with a $2.5 million jury awarded to Padrick.
The issue could also be that this ruling creates precedence and puts everyone on notice that courts are becoming less tolerant of protecting public communications. If you write or say it, regardless of what you call yourself, you are vulnerable for litigation. We caution our clients, be it law firms, corporations, authors or celebrities that having communications professionals (like experienced pr counselors) is vital to getting your message out in the most effective manner and in a way that limits legal or repetitive liability.
Social media provides our clients an opportunity to market their services and their brand. With a legal public relations practice, Media & Communication Strategies recommends that our legal clients consider social media for their lawyers and for the firm. In marketing the lawyers and the law firm’s practices, our legal clients get twice the opportunity for potential new business and publicity.
National Law Journal reported recently the Twitter usage of the top 100 AmLaw firms. The study recommended the use of Twitter to expand visibility of lawyers, the law firm, and the firm’s practices. The article noted that many of the top 100 AmLaw firms protect their tweets or neglect dividing Twitter usage up by various practices. Twitter users who follow law firms do not want to scroll endlessly to find relevant information especially if a reporter is looking for a potential source.
As the article also highlights, the use of Twitter creates possibilities for various opportunities, including speaking events and interviews. However, not all law firms and lawyers may need the use of Twitter or other social media. Use of referral, word-of-mouth, and traditional public relations by marketing managers may suffice.
We aim to fit a social media strategy to a law firms short-term, mid-term, and long-term public relations needs. In some cases, lawyers may want total control of their tweets while the marketing manager may want to tweet on behalf of each practice with input from its lawyers in other situations.
We also strive to provide measurable results for social media campaigns, such as web traffic, interviews with reporters or bloggers, and speaking opportunities. Where we are able to add to the client list for a law firm through an interview or speaking opportunity, we know we have brought value to their bottom line.
The Redner Group, a public relations firm, took to Twitter this week to warn the press about issuing negative reviews of its video game client’s latest product, Duke Nukem Forever. In doing this, the Redner Group created a crisis communications situation.
Public relations pros work with the press to generate favor for their clients. However, the Redner Group viewed the press who is usually an ally for public relations pros as the enemy. The Redner Group threatened the press on Twitter to withhold providing free copies and access to future releases by their video game client if the press outlets reviewed Duke Nukem Forever poorly.
Most outlets had been reviewing the video game with low scores. By bashing the press for doing its job, the Redner Group cut off one of its only avenues to providing value for its video game client. The press acts as a brand ambassador for the video game client and the Redner Group distrusted the press’s views of their video game client’s products.
With threats and opinions of the press, the Redner Group endangered its chances of having the press cover any of their clients in a positive light. The president of the Redner Group apologized to everyone but the damage he already inflicted.
When working with the press, we tell the client’s best story and trust the press to tell that story factually and ethically. If there is an outlet that does not produce what we expect, we try to work with that outlet and reporter to reach an agreement on what needs correction. We do not slander them for doing their job as if they have no idea how to do it.
Also, it is hard to win a public fight with the press but trying to bully them is absolutely deadly and, in many cases, unethical. If you do want to disagree with the media do it on background and in personal meeting unless you are Sarah Palin who appeals to her niche base by bashing the media and making a business out of that strategy.
Another lesson here is to stay off Twitter unless you are promoting your client rather than ranting about their media coverage. What if the client finds out? It is crucial for public relations firms to have a social media style guide to make sure what is appropriate for what client and what social media platform. What is private? What is public? There is that adage, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” These are wise words to listen to in the case of the Redner Group.
An Alleged Criminal Act Prompts Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen into Crisis Communications: The Law of Crisis PR Says Prepare for the WorstThursday, May 26th, 2011
This week, we have a fast food chain in crisis because the corporation was surprised by reports of an employee with a criminal record. Owners of any business, whether a corporation, law firm, or in this instance, a fast food franchise, have hiring standards to uphold based upon local, state, and federal law and are ultimately responsible no matter how a “bad” employee falls through the cracks. This includes the hiring of a person with a criminal record.
NBC Philadelphia reported that police arrested a convicted sex offender who served as a shift manager at a Philadelphia franchise of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for fondling three teenage female employees. A media representative with the fast-food chain immediately issued a crisis communications response to the arrest:
“Popeyes in no way condones or tolerates any form of inappropriate conduct. We have contacted the franchisee to ensure that the franchisee is investigating these serious allegations and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Popeyes made its mission clear to regain trust and protect its reputation. They were transparent with the public about their course of action with the franchise and franchisee. They expect their franchisee to get their house in order. But they didn’t mention what they were going to do to prevent future breaches.
As crisis communications practitioners, we recommend the immediate response Popeyes engaged for getting their position on this case out to the local media in Philadelphia to avoid any doubt from the public or further media scrutiny that could taint their brand. A memo to and training of all franchisees on employee hiring standards, behavior, and communication may be in order. Such actions can unify the internal messaging between employees and crisis response to prevent future incidents at other franchises. Popeyes also needs to prepare for follow-up stories or investigative reports on the part of the news that would be looking to advance the story.