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Cats Sleeping With Dogs: How Lawyers and Crisis Communicators Can Work Together

[By Thom Fladung, Hennes Communications]

At Hennes Communications, we often tell clients that they have an attorney for the Court of Law. But they have us for the Court of Public Opinion.

And those two courts often require different – and at times conflicting – strategies.

Attorneys have persuasive arguments for tailoring a strategy completely around that court of law. Staying out of jail or avoiding paying multimillion-dollar lawsuit damages are, after all, powerful motivators.

But saving your reputation also should be a powerful motivator – especially since a reputation is a crucial asset.

Peter Sandman, one of the leaders in the field of risk and crisis communications, notes: “No lawyer is going to get into trouble by adopting a narrowly legal approach to the client’s problems, even if that approach leaves the client legally victorious but widely hated.”

And in this era of Facebook, Twitter and no geographic boundaries on instant communication, “widely hated” can literally mean worldwide.

Sandman takes a deep dive into the issue of crisis communications, lawyers and outrage management in this piece. While written in 2002 – long before the current social media environment made reputation management an even more complicated challenge – the piece remains vital in how it describes the delicate dance that must take place between client, attorney and crisis communicator for a truly successful end game.

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