PR is all about perception and in legal PR I always risk assess every announcement or press release I do for a client. Did anybody risk assess allowing Andrew – a shamed royal stripped of all public duties because of his past misdemeanors – to be beside the Queen? If they did it was incredibly badly thought out, but if the Queen was advised of the PR backlash and insisted he was by her side anyway, then it shows unbelievable arrogance. Sure enough, the limelight was stolen by Andy’s appearance and the headlines were about him rather than his father.
Black Letter Communications Blog
Expert pr advice for the legal sector
You don’t need to be Greta Thunberg to realise that law firms failing to do their bit for the planet just isn’t acceptable, let alone good legal PR, anymore. Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher found this out earlier this month after hitting the headlines when eco law students launched a boycott of the firm for “shielding corporate polluters from climate accountability”. The pledge was made by members of Law Students for Climate Responsibility (LSCA), a US-based group that collates a ‘scorecard’ for law firms on how much they contribute to climate change
One way businesses can prove that they are doing the right thing is to get B Corporation certification. This isn’t the second team of the Avengers but a badge for for-profit businesses that meet “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose”. The B stands for ‘Benefit’. You may be surprised – or not – to hear that just three law firms in the UK currently have B Corp status. Despite many a law firm heralding their pro bono work or their quest for justice, very few have followed up their press releases about putting the world to rights with actually becoming B Corp.
We all know the importance of PR and how effective it can be at putting brands in the most positive light, but even the best PR agency in the world can’t defend the indefensible. I have written about football clubs and their shocking handling of PR during the pandemic, but the failed European Super League (ESL) trumped – pun intended as the move was almost Trumpesque in its pure arrogance – all of the shambolic decisions that preceded it. In terms of launches it was one of the biggest PR own goals ever witnessed.
No sooner was 2020 and its seemingly never-ending stream of PR crises out of the way than we have seen another Covid-related PR disaster playing out. Unfortunately, it’s one that helps reinforce the much-peddled image of the fat cat lawyer, which is never good PR for law firms.
The term ‘fat cat lawyer’ conjures images of a rich and greedy portly law man living off the wealth of others as he quaffs champagne in his London mansion. Any of us who work in the legal profession know this is a largely unfair tabloid term that has tarnished the reputation of the whole profession for decades. While the term is generally unrepresentative of a profession that does a lot of good for society, some of those in law don’t really help to eradicate the fat cat image sometimes
There’s little doubt that appearing on TV is potentially one of those important points in a lawyer’s career. Do it well and you will have come across as knowledgeable, professional and eloquent and receive pats on the back from the managing partner or CEO. Do it badly and you at best you come across as inept. At worst you risk damaging the reputation of the firm you work for and potentially losing your job.
People say a crisis brings out the very best and the very worst in people – but it has also been the case for brands. From 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore raising £27million (at the time of writing) by doing laps of his garden, to our NHS heroes risking their lives every day to save lives, there are people who are so brave you can’t help but marvel at them. Then there are the brands that get it so wrong that they have managed to turn the coronavirus crisis into their own crisis communications scenario.
PR is always about moulding how you are perceived and that is never more true than in a time of crisis. Unfortunately, if you get this wrong then the damage done to your brand can be long lasting. Away from the legal sector is anybody likely to forget how Sports Direct and Wetherspoons have handled their PR during the current crisis?
News is all around us yet one of the most common questions a PR or journalist gets is ‘what makes a story?’ There is no simple answer, more a litany of potential facts that make up the story jigsaw when dealing with legal and litigation PR.