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When it comes to high-profile litigation, the court of public opinion moves much faster than the courts of law. Managing your corporate reputation in such times is essential to mitigating potential damages to the company's brand. No one disagrees about that.
Yet, when it comes to protecting the corporate rep., many senior legal officers have outdated strategies or no strategies at all, according to the inaugural edition of Greentarget's Litigation Communication Survey.
Everyone Agrees It's Important, No One Does It
In-house counsel widely agree that, during high-profile litigation, managing communications with stakeholders is important, according to Greentarget's report. The P.R. firm survey 73 senior in-house legal officers.
Yet, despite the belief that communication matters when protecting corporate reputation, few corporate legal departments have taken action to ensure that they're prepared to communicate with stakeholders when necessary. Sixty-two percent of respondents had no crisis-communications team, according to the survey. In-house legal teams also lacked an updated litigation communications plan and clear chain of command for external communications.
And it's not because some other department is handling it. A third of respondents said they were responsible for communication strategy outside of court.
Respondents weren't blind to their weaknesses, though. When asked to respond to the statement, "My organization tends to act more conservatively than necessary when communicating externally during high-profile litigation," 58 percent agreed. Only 14 percent disagreed. Corporate legal departments generally aren't conservative with their communication strategy because of lack of trust in the communications team or restrictions from the board, either.
Afraid of the Press
So, what's behind the constant refrain of "no comment while litigation is pending?" Fear of bad press.
Concern about negative media attention was identified as a limiting factor by 80 percent of respondents. That was followed by concerns about the impact of media attention on court proceedings, at 58 percent, and the difficulty of determining the financial impact of potential reputational damage versus legal and financial exposure, at 38 percent.
And, while many legal departments routinely bring on outside legal counsel, they're much less inclined to bring on outside communications help. Only 15 percent regularly bring in outside communications managers during high-profile litigation.