Reputation Risk from the Legal Eye
We recently released an interesting exploration on the relationship between top corporate communications officers and legal counsel when it comes to reputation management. I have already posted about this relationship where these two senior corporate officers seem to be working together more than ever. In light of the multiplying crises that companies and its leaders are facing on an hourly basis, the relationship between the two officers including outside counsel has to be strong and respectful. As we say in the report, “general counsels (GCs) and chief communications officers (CCOs) are now finding themselves participating in the same reputation management strategy meetings, conference calls and contingency planning sessions. GCs, external legal advisors and CCOs now have no choice but to trust and understand each other.”
There are several noteworthy insights and best practices in “Managing Legal and Reputation Risk” but two stand out for me in particular. The first is that you can’t prepare enough and expect surprises. …”executives still find the nature or intensity of the situations they’ve managed to be unfamiliar or unanticipated on some level.” This is so true. There is always something overlooked or unexpected. In fact, it seems to me that it is getting harder to find precedence for some of the crises that arise. For example, the Olympus crisis has few precedents. For this very reason, being ready, practicing a few scenarios ahead of time and giving time to “near misses” are sensible readiness processes to have in place.
Another finding that resonated with me was how general counsels appeared more willing today to balance the interests of the business with legal priorities. They said this, not just me. There are times when the short term hit (such as apologizing or admitting that the company could have done better and will do better in the future) outweighs the costs of winning or losing in a court of law down the road. The fact that many of the legal counsels we interviewed agreed that the “short-term pain for long-term gain” is often the right strategy demonstrated the transformation in communications-legal circles that we explored.