In the Court of Public Opinion by James F. Haggerty

In the Court of Public Opinion by James F. Haggerty

Author:James F. Haggerty
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Thompson
Published: 2009-07-14T16:00:00+00:00

If the law is on your side, pound the law.

If the facts are on your side, pound the facts.

If neither is on your side, pound the table.

In interacting with lawyers, there’s often a lot of table pounding going on. To work effectively with lawyers, you’ve got to understand this and know how to cut through it to reach the overall strategic business goals of the legal issue at hand.

Public Relations Professionals

On to the public relations profession and its many foibles. First, let’s acknowledge the enormous number of highly skilled public relations practitioners out there, many of whom combine business expertise, creativity, and an appreciation of the nuances of the work in a manner that make them extraordinary counselors to their clients. But they are not without their own idiosyncrasies, some of which run directly counter to the nature of the lawyers they need to work with in a litigation situation. So here’s the “down-and-dirty” about public relations and some of the professionals who inhabit the field:

Many public relations people never wanted to be in PR to begin with. At the most elemental level, some don’t like public relations and wish they were doing something else. They hate being called “the public relations guy (or gal).” They find calling a reporter and begging him or her to write a story to be demeaning. In fact, some say in conversation, with a measure of pride, “I haven’t made a media call in years …”—as if that somehow puts them above those public relations people who do speak with reporters on a regular basis. They append their firm names with euphemisms like “communications strategists,” “reputation management consultants,” and “public affairs specialists.” Now, granted, there’s much that these firms do that goes well beyond traditional public relations, including research, strategy, lobbying, government affairs matters, and so on. But it’s an undeniable fact that many public relations professionals started out wanting to do something else with their lives. Some wanted to be journalists, but found they just couldn’t make a living that way. Others wanted to be politicians and change the world. Some wish they were management consultants, while others wish they had gone to law school. During the dot-com boom, many set up Web-based subsidiaries or were circulating business plans to get them out of the field of public relations entirely.

This is important for both clients and their lawyers to know. You need to make sure that the public relations professional you are working with doesn’t have these insecurities. Make sure that they like what they do, they take great pride in their work, and they relish the opportunity to get the job done. In a conscious or unconscious way, an attitude of dislike for the profession will bleed through to all the work they are doing on behalf of your legal matter. Especially given the complexity and confidential nature of this work, a public relations consultant who is not fully committed to what he or she does is dangerous.

Some have doubts about the value of what they are doing.


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