For many, preparing a crisis communications plan is similar to writing or updating your will: you know it’s something you need to do, but despite its importance, it always seems to take a backseat to everything labeled urgent that’s screaming for your immediate attention. And so it’s easy to continue to put it off, trusting that good fortune will continue to ensure that you don’t need it.
However, you will not only be much better prepared to handle whatever crisis comes your way when you have a communications plan ready, but it’s important to realize that such a plan can be useful for a much broader range of situations than you might at first imagine.
To that point, note that law firms need to be cognizant of crisis communications on two different levels. While they may need a crisis communications plan for an event that involves a client, they also should have a plan for any type of crisis that directly concerns either the firm or one of its attorneys. And while the definition of “crisis” may seem stretched if we’re talking about how to handle news of a law firm’s layoffs or a discrimination suit against the firm, many of the same approaches and processes should be followed in these types of events as in the more dramatic cases of workplace violence, plant explosions or plane crashes.
What are these all-important approaches and processes? They start and end with the truth. Yes, honesty and transparency head up the rules of thumb in crisis communications, even though candor is sometimes the most difficult thing to come by in a crisis. And lack of candor can hurt a firm’s reputation much more than whatever occurrence has triggered media attention.
One of the highlights of last week’s annual conference of the Legal Marketing Association was the presentation on crisis communications given by Cari Brunelle of Jaffe PR and Eleanor Kerlow of Hunton & Williams. In their presentation entitled, “Managing the Media When Crisis Strikes,” Cari and Eleanor talked about how everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve rides on your – and your firm’s – reputations, and how quickly a solid reputation can be destroyed.