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The Case for Crisis Management Teamwork

[By Nora Jacobs, Hennes Communications]


We are often asked how we interact with a client’s legal team when a crisis strikes an organization. While the traditional view assumes that communications and legal work in constant conflict in the crisis war room, in our experience, these two disciplines can actually complement each other and build off each other’s expertise – all to the benefit of the client who is wise enough to make sure both have a seat at the table.

This article, authored by friend and colleague Richard Levick, presents eight ways that legal strategy and communication strategy can combine to the benefit of a client’s crisis response.  Among Richard’s recommendations:  make sure you understand what part of the organization is most threatened by the crisis – its brand, its share price, its legal standing or something else.  That decision helps shape the strategy the team assembles to address and resolve the event at hand.

Richard also reminds the reader that crisis management differs significantly depending the geographic market affected. More and more, crisis response must recognize the culture in which it is being deployed. A “one-size fits all” approach runs the significant risk of offending stakeholders even more than the original event – requiring a bespoke strategy for both communications and legal.

Finally, Richard urges that communications be brought onto the crisis response team early to better fortify the protections offered by client privilege.  In our experience, it’s also helpful to be retained directly by a client’s legal team instead of the client itself – an environment we’re happy to work within if it will support the overall response strategy.

In closing, he notes, “When public audiences see a messenger they trust, they’ll defer or will at least be less inclined to pile on.”  Building trust by crafting communications that reflect solid values, demonstrate responsiveness and express a willingness to do better are the foundation of effective crisis response.  And, we would submit, a skill that perfectly complements the work your attorneys are doing to guide you through the complexities of legal strategy.

You can read Richard Levick’s entire article here.

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