In this podcast, Andy Blum, a PR consultant, media trainer, and Principal of AJB Communications, discusses crisis PR for law firms and law firms clients in today’s digital and social media age.
Podcast Show Notes
Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media-intensive crises of the past 25 years. He has handled PR crises ranging from a lobbying scandal, to a CEO cooking company books, a sex scandal involving a national politician, two cases involving sensitive leaks, the Natalee Holloway case, a banking crisis, the internet and conspiracy theorists’ harassment of the father of one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, and the case of a criminal defendant eventually cleared.
What is the most important thing you need to do in a PR crisis?
While this may seem self-evident, when you’re in the middle of a crisis, the most important thing to remember is the phrase “don’t make it worse”. If you aren’t prepared or don’t have the right team in place to deal with a crisis, without trying to, the crisis could take over. You can prepare yourself by having a crisis PR plan in place – it’s not something you want to do on the fly. You want to have people in place who not only handle PR, but those who can handle social and digital media aspects of the crisis too. You may also want to have a crisis PR specialist outside of the firm to assist during specific times of panic.
What is the worst thing you can do in a PR crisis?
In a crisis, you have to quickly figure out what the crisis actually is. Come up with a statement or social media post that covers the bases. Releasing 3 or 4 initial PR statements is going to leave the media questioning your intentions. Make sure your first statement is completely accurate and thorough.
Examples of lawyers and law firms being caught in a crisis
The college admissions scandal and Willkie Farr is a great example. I believe that they acted as quickly as they could, and my memory is that he was put on leave before he pled guilty. This is something that is not only changing how lawyers look at things, but how crisis PR professionals look at things. A lot of the men who faced sexual assault allegations during the “Me Too” movement where fired or put on leave within 24 hours. Normally in a PR crisis, there’s usually time to put together a PR crisis management team. However, in this new crisis environment with such high profile allegations, the actual crisis is gone within a matter of hours. The prime example of a lawyer in a crisis right now is Michael Avenatti who represented Stormy Daniels in the Stormy Daniels vs Donald Trump scandal. This man was charged for multiple counts of crime himself for defrauding Stormy Daniels. As good as he is with the media, he was not prepared to have the media turned on him.
Should you use the web and all social media channels in a crisis?
You have to decide, is the crisis bad enough where you want to put a letter on your website to your clients. Some crises are more serious than others, you’ve got to decide the best manner of delivery for a statement. If a crisis is big enough, it may be worth it to film a 2-3 minute video. At a minimum, you must have your social media platforms up and running. If you don’t have a general statement ready, your words are going to get lost in the world of social media.
Should you have a crisis PR plan and a crisis PR agency?
The first thing you need to know is who is involved. You want it to be a manageable number of people, and those who know the situation at hand. The crisis plan should then be written up and shared with this designated list of people. A crisis drill is beneficial because it helps to put a mere piece of paper into practice. Most importantly, this plan will help all involved stay calm, which is very important to the success of the PR plan.
A crisis can happen out of the blue at a moment’s notice. Make sure you or your client are prepared to respond promptly before your crisis goes viral with the wrong kind of hashtag.