make the media your primary means of communicating on pending or current
litigation in progress. Journalists are not a reliable means of ensuring
that your key audiences receive your messages, nor is it a reporter's job
to make sure everything you think is important gets to the right people.
DO communicate directly with your important audiences, internally
and externally, to ensure they have the information you want them to have
about matters being tried in the media.
DO consider the option of informing certain key audiences of the
probability of media coverage on a legal matter before it appears in the
DO remember that employees are a critical audience -- all employees
are PR representatives for the organization whether you want them to be or
DO integrate legal and PR strategy, because you'll be educating the
jury pool while also minimizing damage that could occur to your
organization in the short-term, even if you win the legal case in the
DO explore the use of publicity about generic or related issues
relevant to your particular case or client as a legitimate means of
bringing attention to issues that might result in pre-trial settlements,
or to develop similar examples to illustrate the issues in your case.
DON'T say "no comment" if you haven't had a chance to
review the case. Say "I'd very much like to comment on this as soon
as I've read what's been filed." If appropriate, add: "I still
don't have a copy of it myself, could you fax or email one over?"
DO tell journalists that you want to respect their deadlines, but
would appreciate their respecting your need to have the information you
need to make an intelligent response.
DON'T attack the media. Ever. Neither directly, nor in
communication with other audiences, because it will get back to them. The
media can hurt you more than you can hurt them. Most media outlets LOVE
being sued or threatened, it sells more papers or air time.
DON'T judge the impact of media coverage by the sensationalism of
headlines or length of news coverage. Ask your important audiences,
internal and external, how THEY are reacting to the coverage -- in some
cases, you'll find they don't believe it!
DO consider becoming your own publisher, using the Internet to post
your perspective on issues of public concern -- IF the general public is,
in fact, an important audience for you. Or even on a password-protected
Web site for selected audiences that are important to you.
DON'T assume that you know how to talk to reporters about negative
news just because you're skilled at "good news" interviews --
get media trained.
DO establish both internal and external rumor control systems to
short-circuit rumors early on, before they do too much damage.
Bernstein is president of Bernstein
Crisis Management LLC, editor of the Crisis Manager newsletter,
and author of
Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual.
In 2005, PR News recognized him as one of 23 consultants
nationally "who should be on the speed dial in a crisis."
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