Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MEDIA MATTERS--No Legal Eagles

One of the things that surprises my consulting clients the most is my advice on media crisis management--no lawyers!

Don't get me wrong...your legal advisor should be holding your hand night and day when you or your organization is facing disaster. However, when it comes to offering advice on media matters, your lawyer will almost always be WRONG.

Why? Because lawyers will tell you to tell the press "No comment." The two most dangerous words you can say to a reporter...who will quote you verbatim in their article...which the reader will looks at and immediately think, "Guilty."

My lawyer friends argue that it's unethical to talk to reporters, or that their client's remarks might damage their right to a fair trial. That may be so, but the Canons of Ethics also state that lawyers must always serve the best interests of their clients--and to let the media determine public opinion without any response from the accused is bad legal representation, in my experience.

Negative media coverage will do more damage to you than a negative verdict. Critical news reports can destroy morale, turn customers away, depress stock prices, and influence future relationships. The best legal defense in a courtroom works against you in the court of public opinion. Win the legal battle and lose the media war.

The most effective media crisis strategy is to get an assessment of the legal problems you may create by talking to the press. Then go to your media consultant, weigh the risk/reward and make your decision.

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