how to avoid a pr crisis

5 Tips on How to Avoid a PR Crisis

The strength of your law firm directly relates to its reputation, and now that information about your firm travels at the speed of the internet – which is to say instantaneously – effective reputation management is critical. If you suffer a PR hiccup or crisis, there is far less wiggle room regarding damage control than there once was. Even shared information that is blatantly incorrect or skewed can remain at large for a long time to come – making actively guiding your firm’s online reputation paramount. 

Whether you are unsure about how best to avoid common pitfalls, need skilled guidance in the face of a snafu, or are at a complete loss about protecting your firm’s reputation, there are several tried-and-true tips that can help. One of the most important is reaching out for the practiced guidance of an experienced legal PR professional early in the process. 

Tip One: Remember that a Little Prevention Is Worth a Whole Lot of Cure

The single most important step you can take to help you avoid a PR disaster is to have well-considered policies in place and ensure that everyone at your firm understands and abides by these policies. This is an instance when having the know-how of a legal PR pro on your side can prove invaluable. 

The fact is that there is a substantial difference between having policies in place and having thoughtful policies that support your firm’s mission and make sense to your team in place. The former amounts to ticking a box while affording very little by way of protection, while the latter not only bolsters your brand but can also help you bypass the pitfalls that are most likely to tarnish your firm’s reputation. 

It’s important to note here that social media is the most likely access point for mistakes to creep in – we’ve all seen the apology posts that companies make regarding their employees’ careless words on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. When you have a clear protocol in place regarding your firm’s messaging, however, these slip-ups become much less likely. 

When it comes to protecting your brand, consistency is key, and this includes relation to customer service, social media messaging, the values that guide your work, and beyond. 

Tip Two: Focus on Customer Service

When you make customer service your primary focus, you help to minimize the risk that you’re going to come up against a PR crisis. The heart of every law firm is its clients, and if you’re not putting everything you can into providing your clients, your prospective clients, your potential clients, and your past clients with the kind of service they expect and deserve, you’re doing your firm, your clients, and your reputation a disservice. 

When your past and current clients – along with those who may become your clients – appreciate the way they’ve been treated, they’re far more likely to forgive or overlook something that could potentially dim your reputation’s shine than they would be if they’d been treated just so-so along the way. Without clients, you wouldn’t have a firm, which should motivate you to bring your strongest customer service game with every interaction. 

Some tips for keeping your customer service in tiptop shape include:

  • Put yourselves in your clients’ shoes – What are their vulnerabilities, and how would you want to be treated?
  • Follow the leader by paying attention to how leaders in your field of law handle customer service.
  • Remember that customer service begins with initial contact, which often means when a potential client lands on your website. 
  • Focus on the details of each client’s experience – your personalized attention will not go unnoticed. 
  • Keep your turnaround time tight by making it your policy to respond within X number of hours and doing what’s necessary to make this happen.
  • Let clients know what they can expect when they work with your firm by going through all the important details upfront. 

Tip Three: Keep a Weather Eye on Your Social Media

Not only is it important to have a plan when it comes to your firm’s messaging, advertisements, comments, and posts on social media, but it’s also important to monitor what’s going on in relation to your firm on various social networks. A well meaning post can strike the wrong note more easily than the author realizes, and the internet is rife with critics who are looking for any excuse not to afford the benefit of the doubt. 

This can also, however, swing the other way, and you may garner positive attention where you least expect it. It’s important to pay attention to all the following kinds of attention your firm may be generating on every online platform:

  • Condemnation from any source and on any topic 
  • Questions about your services or anything else
  • Comments about your posts or your firm generally
  • Praise about your work, your posts, your contributions to the community, or anything else
  • Likes and dislikes in relation to your online offerings 
  • Client testimonials

The fact is that whether the activity is positive, negative, or neutral, the more quickly, thoughtfully, and accurately you respond, the better, and the social media monitoring provided by professionals in the legal PR field can help immensely.   

Tip Four: Keep Your Clients and Audience in the Know

A big part of troubleshooting is not being caught doing something you could have addressed openly. In relation to law firms, this generally means announcing any changes you’re implementing in terms of policy, the law, the news cycle, or anything else prior to doing it and proceeding with timely updates as you move forward. Waiting to explain yourself later is not a good look, and if the news is less than positive, waiting to discuss it can cast a pall on your reputation. 

If your firm’s been in the news for less than stellar reasons, addressing the matter right out of the gate – with PR savvy backing you up – can go a long way toward avoiding a PR nightmare. The fact of the matter is that timing can play a critical role in your PR hygiene. The impact of identical statements can be vastly different when made before trouble becomes apparent and when made after the fact. 

Tip Five: Know What to Do if Your Best Efforts Fail and a PR Crisis Erupts Anyway

Even if you’ve poured your heart and soul into protecting your firm’s reputation and did everything right, there is no guarantee that you won’t face a PR debacle at some point. The public is nothing if not fickle, which means that relations with the public can be unpredictable. As such, it’s important to have a survival guide firmly in place that is designed to protect your firm as you navigate the rocky road ahead.

Have a Solid Plan

First and foremost, you need a plan in the face of a burgeoning PR crisis. This should include identifying someone who is a likely candidate for the position – not just someone who is available – as being in charge and guiding crisis management whenever it becomes necessary to do so. With someone guiding your efforts and the focused guidance of a crisis management firm, you’ll be well prepared to weather whatever kind of PR storm is brewing.

Don’t Let Your Instincts Guide You

A PR crisis calls for careful strategizing, and while you should respond as swiftly as possible, you should not give in to a base reaction. If your reputation has been unfairly targeted, which is often the crux of PR predicaments, it’s very tempting to lash back, but doing so is very unlikely to do you any favors. Responding in a timely, thoughtful manner that highlights your ability to take the high road, however, is difficult to fault. 

Don’t Speak Before You Should

If your critics are clamoring for a response while the world – or what feels like the world – watches, you naturally want to respond as quickly as possible. What you don’t want to do, however, is respond for the sake of responding – only to backpedal later. If you don’t have all the information you need to respond appropriately, leading with this is a better approach than winging it or simply saying what you think the people want to hear. 

Honesty is always the best policy, and if you can’t make a definitive statement, letting your readers know that you will do so as soon as possible can go a long way toward bolstering your firm’s integrity.  

A Legal Crisis Management Team Can Help 

The legal public relations professionals at Newsroom PR have reserves of experience deftly employing their crisis management experience and insight in the face of PR nightmares, and we’re also adept at helping firms like yours bolster their brands while polishing and protecting their reputations. 

Having the right PR help can change your business. To learn more about what we can do to help you, please don’t wait to reach out and contact or call us at 213-422-2738 today.