Recent research has revealed just how much the media landscape has changed over the past five years, with brands having to compete harder than ever before for shrinking press opportunities. Research from Brands2Life and Media Measurement found that there were 21% fewer articles published by top UK media compared to five years ago. During the same period brand-led stories fell by 28%, with ‘big issues’ dominating, accounting for 44% of all media coverage. For all brands, from supermarkets to law firms, it means having to fight harder than ever to secure coverage.
When digital communications first sprang on to the scene and email became the de-facto method of business communication over the telephone, you’d often see stories in the media of the outraged employee who sent an email ranting about their boss to the whole company, instead of just a few intended recipients, or ‘private’ emails shared publicly by jilted spouses.
Handling a communications crisis is always something you hope won’t happen, but it can be more valuable in the learnings it brings than any text book. I now specialise in legal and litigation PR, but in a different life I had a very wide-ranging career in PR and corporate communications both in agency and in-house, working in a government department, a charitable foundation and a university. I am not sure whether you could call me unlucky or I’ve just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I have worked through plenty of crises during my career, ranging from small-scale and local to large and global.
Even by the standards of government press releases, the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) recent announcement of the whiplash reforms going live was a masterclass of misleading propaganda. Of course the MoJ was going to put as positive a spin on the changes as it could and it was depressing to see how media like the Press Association, BBC and Sky News simply regurgitated the press release, with a bit of extra comment from insurers thrown in.
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.
is it worth law firms entering awards and if so, which ones? What are the benefits from a PR perspective and what makes for a winning entry? Over the past 10 years, the team at Black Letter have worked with clients to secure a wide range of award wins for chambers, law firms, individuals and teams and these are questions we have been asked many times.
Can anything stop the rise of online client reviews? Many law firms do not like the prospect of clients having their say online about the service they provided – mainly because of the possibility that it could be subverted by malcontents and competitors – but in a world where many turn to Tripadvisor and TrustPilot as a matter of course, it seems inevitable.
The AstraZeneca story is a reminder about how hard it is to come back from communications mistakes and to once again build trust in what you are saying. In PR trust is key. Whether its pharmaceuticals, finance or in our sector - legal PR - accuracy and credibility are vital to reputation. The public expect a lot from these professions and mistakes and errors can do considerable reputational damage.
The long-awaited route map out of the pandemic has been revealed, and to everyone’s pleasant surprise, it wasn’t a communications failure. In fact, along with some early spring weather, it brought a glimmer of hope on the horizon that the threads of our lives we dropped so abruptly last March, may soon be picked up again. Whilst the pandemic is by no means over, the one-year milestone that we are edging towards isn’t something any of us could have envisioned a year ago, when we believed we were locking down for a few weeks to ‘flatten the curve’.