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Attorneys & Communications Experts – Who Trumps Whom?

[By Stephanie York, J.D., Hennes Communications]

Companies and other organizations limit liability by insuring most, if not all, of their assets: buildings, furniture, vehicles, the health of employees, the health of visitors and more.

And while some insurance policies now offer “crisis communications coverage,” allowing the insured to engage the services of a specialized firm like Hennes Communications up to certain dollar limits, it still can be said that an organization’s actual reputation is its largest uninsured asset.

A company is most vulnerable when it is dealing with a crisis. That is the critical time when reputations can be irreparably damaged. And that is why protecting your reputation should be top of mind when a crisis strikes.

No matter the scale, from an on-line social media attack to an active shooter on the premises, a crisis tests an organization’s ability to act quickly, decisively and honestly to preserve its reputation.

Often, this means putting the company’s attorneys and communications experts together to draft messages that minimize risk but are still honest, transparent and informative. Not an easy task.

Our colleague, Samantha Drake, in a piece titled When Disaster Strikes, Counsel and Communicators Must Work Together, outlines steps to take before a crisis strikes to help draft a message that will appease the company’s attorneys, as well as its communicators – while also protecting the company’s reputation.  Not surprisingly, it starts with a crisis management plan that includes many of things we, at Hennes, incorporate into the Crisis Communications Plans that we write for our clients:

  • A designated spokesperson capable of delivery clear and persuasive messages
  • Key messages that are concise and simple
  • Ownership of the organization’s roles and responsibilities in the situation
  • A commitment to openness and honesty
  • Communication that is authentic and genuine in tone and delivery
  • Realistic management of expectations without over-promising and under-delivering
  • A focus on facts, not speculation

Drake’s piece is worth consideration before you wrestle with incorporating the attorney’s role and the communicator’s role in drafting crisis messaging that will help protect your company’s reputation.

You can read more about the relationship between attorneys and communicators here.

Photo Credit:  StepInIt – Ryan McGuire (Creative Commons)

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