If you are a public figure or you work in a leadership role for a business, being placed under arrest or being charged with a crime can seriously damage your reputation and also the survival of the professional organization in which you are employed. Even if you are found not guilty or if the charges are dropped, repairing your damaged public image can be a difficult process.
Times have changed. In the past, the public had a limited number of resources in which to secure real-time information. They had to form their opinion based on information that the major news outlets provided them. Today, we are in the age of information. Because of the Internet, any subject that the public wishes to “dig deeper” into is just a click away. This is why – if you or your brand has acquired legal problems – you should expect that the public will know the details of your case.
Five professionals with knowledge in legal public relations (PR) or crisis management have provided the following PR tips that you should employ if you ever find yourself in legal trouble while you are in the public eye.
“Because of the Internet, the public may have access to detailed information regarding any legal case. This is exactly why many public figures get into trouble. They lie. Your public image is already in jeopardy. If you are caught being dishonest when you discuss the case, you have dug yourself into an even deeper hole.”
– A spokesperson for Mauzy Criminal Defense Attorneys
Own up to your mistakes.
“You would be surprised by how forgiving the public can be if you do not try to run and hide from a situation. When John F. Kennedy admitted his wrongdoing and misjudgements after the disastrous Cuban Missile Crisis, his approval ratings quickly rose. Although he was not charged with a crime, this situation proves that the public may in fact forgive you if you simply fess up.”
– A spokesperson for Beedem Law
Try to use humor.
“Depending on what your specific legal dilemma might be, it might be wise to consider using humor to lighten the situation. Of course, humor would not be appropriate if you were charged with a crime that involved a tragedy.”
– A spokesperson for Expungement Lawyer MN
Make sure that you have thought carefully about your response.
“When it is time to face the public, do not make the mistake of coming up with a response on the spot. Make sure that you have thought carefully about what you will say. After all, every word matters in a fragile situation. Saying one wrong thing can mean the end of your public image as you know it.”
– A spokesperson for Erotas Building Corporation
Make it easy for reporters to get information.
“When you fail to cooperate with reporters, you should know that doing so might – in a way – turn them against you. On the other side, providing them with as much information as you can and being openly available will help you develop a better relationship and it will work in your favor. This is especially important when your brand has come under legal fire.”
– A spokesperson for Windsor Companies
Carefully monitor what is said about your brand.
"When your reputation is in trouble (such as when you have been accused of a crime), spend time monitoring what has been said about you in the media before you make a statement. This will allow you to form a much more educated and effective response."
– A spokesperson for Corporate Mechanical
Keep your company organized.
"When your organization is in legal trouble, it is reasonable to believe that panic will ensue within the office. It is crucial that you do what you can to maintain order so that everyone can work together to figure out the best possible solution."
– A spokesperson for Central Roofing Company
Make sure that you fully understand the impact of your response.
"Before you make a statement to the public regarding your legal problems, carefully study the possible influence that your response will have on your business. How have other organizations facing similar situations responded and how did their response impact their business and their revenue?"
– A spokesperson for Altemp Mechanical
Get ahead of the problem.
"If your organization is in legal trouble, begin considering your PR strategy as early as possible. This will allow you to get ahead of the crisis. Create a detailed plan for your response to ensure the security of your reputation and your productivity."
– A spokesperson for Dean Bjorkstrand Landscaping