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Crisis Management: Five Steps to Take Before Providing That Comment

Cybersecurity and Privacy   |   December 22, 2014
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In the digital age, news—good and bad—travels fast. So can its effect on your corporate image and success. From data breaches to innocent and vicious leaks, a corporate crisis can engulf your business in an unforgiving news cycle that crushes consumer confidence, tanks stock values, and spurs feverish litigation.

By taking these simple steps, corporate counsel and executives can mitigate the inevitable crisis:

1. Avoid a Crowded Kitchen – Designate a “crisis response” team, making one individual the source of all public communication. Clearly designate who has authority to approve final public and internal messages and be consistent. Fewer cooks results in a controlled message.

2. Develop Press Contacts – Reporters who call on deadline during a crisis seek sound bites that fit their theme. To help avoid unbalanced coverage, develop genuine relationships with journalists who cover your region and industry. Preexisting relationships help guarantee more comprehensive coverage that puts the crisis in context. Give journalists information and access during calmer times so that, in a crisis, they will be more inclined to trust you.

3. Say What You Mean to Say – Avoid defensive responses, which feed conflict-focused news cycles and can cause more damage. Accordingly, instill a “do no harm” ethic within your business units, meaning, no outside communications are allowed until the company has a coordinated message that is communicated only by your designated source.

4. Shelter Under the Privilege – Include outside counsel in crisis-response planning. The immediate response to a crisis can have long-term legal and regulatory consequences that extend beyond the newspaper’s front page. Through the attorney-client and work product privileges, you may be able to structure your initial investigation for maximum protection from disclosure. Outside counsel can be better advocates if apprised of your crisis plan before your emergency phone call.

5. Think Long-Term – In the early moments of a crisis, it’s common to attempt to fix today’s headline rather than consider tomorrow’s. That’s a mistake. Remember, the aim is long-term protection. The corporate external and internal message should be structured to shorten the story’s life cycle, and then to make your weakness a strength. To do this, your crisis team must have, in advance, a strong understanding of what drives corporate value. That lets them know what their message must protect.


©2020 Carlton Fields, P.A. Carlton Fields practices law in California through Carlton Fields, LLP. Carlton Fields publications should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information and educational purposes only, and should not be relied on as if it were advice about a particular fact situation. The distribution of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship with Carlton Fields. This publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion. To request reprint permission for any of our publications, please use our Contact Us form via the link below. The views set forth herein are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the firm. This site may contain hypertext links to information created and maintained by other entities. Carlton Fields does not control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this outside information, nor is the inclusion of a link to be intended as an endorsement of those outside sites.

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