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Speaking Out or Staying Silent: A Guide to Creating Communications Plans for Bars

By Nick Hansen for the American Bar Association

“If you can see it coming, it’s not a crisis,” said Bruce Hennes, CEO of Hennes Communications, to audience members at his 2024 Bar Leadership Institute workshop “Speaking Out or Strategic Silence? Organizational Approaches to Issuing Public Statements.”Hennes, along with Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association (CMBA) CEO Becky Ruppert McMahon, explained why it is important for bars to develop a communications plan for when a rapid response is needed, as well as when bars want to proactively comment on a situation.

Why Have a Plan?

Hennes, who has nearly 40 years’ experience in the communications field and is the public member of the CMBA board, shared the reality of today’s media landscape: “The only thing that counts is the speed of your reply.” With the ubiquity of social media, and a trend towards iterative journalism, it is imperative to get your side of the story out quickly. “Generally speaking, whoever goes first determines the trajectory of the story,” said Hennes.

And when your bar is asked to take a position on a public issue, having a set plan in place can bolster your bar’s reputation, as well as allay member concerns that bars aren’t listening to their members. “We believe that we have to have a policy. We have to have a thoughtful process that is a defensible process, and that is used consistently time after time after time as we consider what we’re going to say and when we’re going to say it,” said McMahon.

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Photo Credit:  Copyright 2024 Hennes Communications

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