A lawsuit is a powerful way to put a lot of pressure to convince other people to pay. Sometimes it’s a just correction of a wrong sometimes it’s not. However, once they are filed, they are public information and, therefore, can find their way into the news.
A lawsuit filed against you or your company requires expert crisis communications management even if it’s not in the news. Lawyers almost always recommend silence. But silence can imply guilt and affect a company’s reputation in a way that affects the bottom line. When questioned by reporters, a skilled publicist can often help keep the court action from becoming news. If it’s already a story, the publicist can ensure your key messages don’t included “no comment.”
Obviously, NFL quarterback Drew Brees is a very famous person. As soon as he files a law suit, it’s in the news. Insofar as publicity is concerned, Brees has the advantage of both being a popular personality and the plaintiff, not the defendant. If you’re the defendant in the news, what is your first move?
- Take a deep breath. Keep a cool head. This will pass.
- Do not manage the press yourself. Refer to your company’s “crisis communications plan” which should include bringing in an outside expert who is detached from the story.
- Move all crisis communications out of the office. Firewall bad news so it has the least impact on company moral. Crisis communications should include internal communications with staff which is candid, factual and optimistic.
- Choose a single spokesperson. Refer all reporters to that spokesperson. They should be available 24/7 to screen all reporter calls and answer media inquiries in an orderly fashion.
- Answer all reporters. You can state you will have a statement in 24 hours, but answer all reporters’ emails and phone calls with a prepared statement.
- Tell the truth. Often, this is painful. Always, this is necessary.
- Stay calm. Focus on the positive. Don’t do “spin” – only relevant factual information.
By having a simple, easy-to-execute crisis communications plan in place, a surprise lawsuit won’t derail your business before you have even entered the courtroom. In fact, when handled well, it can/should enhance your reputation. The key is the be prepared and delegate communications to experts in this particular type of publicity.