Crisis and Litigation Communications
We understand that a lawsuit, investigation, or crisis will have an immediate impact on a client’s operations and brand, as well as second- and third-order effects long after a court, government, or regulatory body has made its decision. Liability and other legal outcomes may be at stake—but so are credibility and reputation.
Goldberg Segalla offers clients—high-profile individuals as well as public and private companies, nonprofits and religious organizations, government entities, and leagues and associations—a suite of strategic communications services in addition to legal counsel. This means that from the outset of a matter—whether at the breach of an evolving crisis, in the midst of years-long litigation, or in planning sessions long before an anticipated issues arises—we work to understand our client’s unique risks and objectives from a global perspective that accounts for liability, legal outcomes, daily business operations, and reputational concerns. To meet these objectives and mitigate all types of risks, we tailor campaigns that draw on a range of sophisticated communications tools and tactics. Sometimes a matter will require a single, well-placed phone call. Sometimes it will call for a targeted release of information to select media or public influencers to redirect sentiment and coverage. Sometimes it will require a multimarket blitz, mass-distributed fact sheets, new rules of social media engagement, and a televised press conference.
While the specifics of each engagement will call for a different approach to strategic communications, in every matter we promise far-sighted and collaborative planning, precise and cost-effective execution, and detailed post-event reporting. Our services include:
- Crisis management (rapid response)
- Crisis planning and preparation
- Facilitation of community meetings
- Fact sheets, FAQs, and call center scripts
- Government lobbying
- Grasstops identification and engagement
- Internal and stakeholder communications
- Issues management and messaging strategy
- Litigation PR
- Media monitoring
- Media relations
- Media training/executive coaching
- Opposition campaigns
- Press conference facilitation
- Press releases and public statements
- Regulatory and government reporting
- Reputation repair
- Social media monitoring and strategy
With an in-house strategic communications advisor and attorneys experienced in public and media relations, Goldberg Segalla offers more comprehensive and holistic counsel than a traditional law firm alone and greater cost-efficiency than our clients could expect by retaining both defense counsel and a third-party communications firm.
Price—With one strategic communications advisor assigned to each matter, advising the client, attorneys on the file, and any third-party consultants retained, we can guarantee our clients exceptional cost efficiency and a significant degree of control as to overall spending. We communicate frequently regarding the evolving scope of the matter, never alter strategy without client approval, and offer flexibility and alternative arrangements regarding fee structure depending on the type of work involved.
Privilege—We understand the rules of attorney-client privilege and the risks posed by the introduction of non-attorney third parties into sensitive communications. We understand what communications may remain privileged even with the introduction of non-attorney third-parties—and what communications may not. We have developed informed protocols to keep sensitive information privileged and routed through the appropriate channels at all times.
Professionalism—Clients can expect from our strategic communications services the same level of care, responsiveness, and professionalism that they expect from our legal counsel. When retained for crisis response we are available 24/7 and continuously attuned to the legal and reputational needs of the client as well as the budget constraints of the engagement.
If you’re litigating in a court of law, it’s likely that you’ll also be litigating in the court of public opinion. The notion that this can be avoided is an outdated and even dangerous misunderstanding of the dynamics of the contemporary legal and media environment. Understanding that communications is a core litigation management function—just as essential and just as common as expert opinion, document management, or jury consulting—translates to global cost-savings, favorable outcomes both inside and outside of the courtroom, and the mitigation of long-term reputational damage that so often attends litigation.
It is also essential, though, to understand that litigation communications is a niche discipline distinct from both traditional PR and its closer cousin, crisis communications. Unlike traditional PR, litigation communications rarely requires the simple steps of preparing press releases and media lists for mass distribution of standard messages. And unlike a crisis, where them scope and duration of an engagement will be limited and a single response at the outset will have a disproportionate impact on the course of events, litigation is drawn out over months and years following a more nuanced media cycle; coverage is less event-driven; and the issues involved are incredibly complex, and typically lack the single unifying concept or image present in most crises.
Whether a case captures the attention of mainstream cable outlets or merely the trade press, whether the relevant influencers are cable anchors or a handful of interested citizens on Twitter, Goldberg Segalla offers the expertise to manage communications and influence audience perceptions before and during litigation.
We have experience drafting, executing, and adapting on-the-fly and long-range communications campaigns aimed at achieving litigation outcomes as well as our clients’ broader objectives, including:
- Convincing a plaintiff, prosecutor, or regulator not to file a lawsuit
- Leveraging communications strategies to achieve swift and favorable settlements, minimizing or influencing media coverage and in some cases even avoiding it altogether
- Discouraging copycat or coattail lawsuits following everything from high-profile executive sexual harassment allegations to class actions to intellectual property claims
- Neutralizing false or misleading information generating pressure that makes it difficult for clients to continue business-as-usual
- Serving as “expert” spokespeople to the media, translating sophisticated legal concepts into soundbites that advance the client’s strategic narrative
- Influencing trial coverage through post-proceeding recaps, distribution of curated information to various audiences, and long-term cultivation of media contacts
Many litigation scenarios require a defensive communications posture. In these situations, we help our clients to mitigate or avoid bad press and to correct false or misleading information that has leaked into the public. In some scenarios, though, our clients require an offensive communications posture. These services—often called “opposition PR” or “oppo campaigns”—leverage proactive and offensive communications tools to achieve strategic objectives, ranging from avoiding trial or influencing settlement amounts to halting lawsuits altogether.
- Created and executed an opposition PR strategy to leverage media attention in major outlets to achieve a favorable settlement outcome in a high-profile celebrity copyright suit
- Acted as spokesperson and crisis communications counsel for a school district in high-profile federal civil rights litigation
- Advised a water treatment company on external messaging and media relations at the onset of litigation stemming from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at an apartment building in Manhattan
- Representing a coalition of local interests, orchestrated and executed a strategy combining media relations, community relations, and direct lobbying to permanently stop a construction project by blocking necessary zoning and planning board approvals
When a crisis strikes, Goldberg Segalla will be prepared to jump in and take control of the situation. We are accustomed to parachuting in to rapidly evolving crisis scenarios ranging from disease outbreak and data breaches to environmental incidents and #MeToo scandals. While developing a strategy to minimize a client’s legal risks will be of immediate importance, we also understand that it will be crucial to control and take a strategic approach to communications from the very moment that a crisis breaches.
Though the specifics and scope will vary, a crisis requires immediately identifying:
- What information is essential to the crisis and its immediate and long-term risks analyses
- Where information may be spreading already
- When key action and communications decision points are likely to arise
- Who will be able to influence the spread of information and the narrative that emerges
- How the success or failure of communications strategies and tactics can be measured
We are experienced in deploying tactics to buy time at the outset of a crisis while avoiding, on one end of the spectrum, the deadly “no comment,” and on the other, hasty or misinformed pronouncements that will later have to be contradicted or walked back. We understand how to engage relevant media or other stakeholders early and defer coverage or the unwanted spread of incomplete or false information until we have control of the necessary facts and have reached consensus on a strategic narrative and cohesive response.
Once we have addressed immediate communications needs, we are able to follow an information-gathering protocol tailored to the type of crisis, the client’s industry or sector, and the variables and parameters of the situation known at the outset. Swiftly equipped with essential information, we work collaboratively with the client to prepare a crisis roadmap that will steer us “out of the fire”—all while contemporaneously developing a strategy for defense or other legal objectives.
We offer a steady hand for the duration of the crisis—which could last for months or years or could be resolved within the span of an afternoon—shaping the narrative as it pertains to our client, protecting credibility and reputation, minimizing impact on the client’s operations, and aligning communications with legal strategy. In a crisis, when it can be deadly to an entity’s reputation to hide behind a lawyer, an in-house communications professional, or an outside spokesperson, we are accustomed to working in the background and identifying and coaching spokespersons from the highest ranks of an organization’s leadership.
Aside from ongoing media relations and messaging guidance, we leverage powerful media monitoring software to provide timely notifications of all new coverage and ongoing analysis of coverage accounting for sentiment, key message prevalence, geography, aggregate views, social media engagement, and more.
- Advised a Connecticut nonprofit theatre company on communications and media monitoring around alleged child sexual abuse occurring at the theatre and involving a former employee
- Advised a national long-term care company on media, resident, and other stakeholder communications regarding safety measures, resident quarantines, and resident deaths arising from the coronavirus pandemic
- Advised a New York restaurant and brewery chain on public messaging and social media monitoring around coronavirus closures and openings and staff illness
- Advised a North Carolina-based trucking company on media relations in the wake of allegations of workplace discrimination
Cyber incidents—ranging from data breaches involving customer information to phishing and whaling attacks on an organization’s systems—are increasingly common, and risks are multiplying along with the evolution of hybrid remote working environments and the interconnectivity of smart devices in homes and offices. Cyber incidents involve many of the risks of other types of reputational crises, but they also involve unique stakeholder sensitivities as well as requirements for customer and regulatory communications that vary by state. Our strategic communications services are fully integrated with the firm’s Cybersecurity and Data Privacy practice, and we regularly offer clients assistance with media relations, messaging, fact sheets and call center FAQs, continuous media monitoring, and required reporting in the aftermath of data breaches and other cyber incidents.
Too often, companies, counsel, and even outside PR consultants think that in a crisis, litigation, or other sensitive situation, “public relations” really means “media relations.” We understand that this is almost never the case. Employees and other stakeholder groups are often the publics of greatest strategic interest to the entity in the crosshairs of crisis or in the heat of prolonged litigation. Whether these publics present as a risk or a resource will depend on controlling internal or targeted communications from the outset. Our experience includes:
- Crafting sensitive internal communications, including multimedia communications, to address workplace issues, illness and safety concerns, layoffs, sudden executive moves or departures, and anticipated unfavorable media coverage
- Preparing fact sheets, FAQs, and talking points to arm call center employees and front-line managers, who often serve as critical information brokers and messaging amplifiers in a crisis
- Investor, regulatory, and business media relations
- Providing clients with education and training regarding crisis and other sensitive internal communications before a need arises
Frequently, our clients will require long-term guidance on managing messaging and presenting or framing issues to various publics outside the context of an immediately breaching or evolving crisis. Whether helping clients prepare for anti-trust litigation, navigate regulatory scrutiny, guide controversial construction and development projects or mergers and acquisitions to completion, or handle long-term litigation related to products or practices, we understand the importance of a global approach that accounts for communications and leverages the presentation of information to public, semi-public, and private audiences to achieve our clients’ goals. Bringing communications into the overall strategy from the outset of a project or engagement can have a significant, positive impact on the client’s bottom line, bringing about swifter accomplishment of objectives, avoiding pitfalls and potholes, and mitigating the scope and cost of litigation.
Additionally, multiple partners at our firm regularly use strategic communications tools and tactics to advance the interests of our clients, industry groups, and business organizations, including direct lobbying in Washington, D.C. and statehouses around the country, the drafting and submission of amicus briefs in critical appellate cases, and providing counsel on targeted stakeholder and public communications campaigns.
Goldberg Segalla is a firm built on long-term relationships. We understand that a client’s needs and concerns—especially regarding credibility and reputation—do not end with a verdict or a settlement. With a solid understanding of the inner workings of newsrooms as well as a firm grasp on the narrative mechanics that play out in the mainstream media, trade press, and social media, we can continue to work with clients after a crisis has subsided or litigation concluded and plan for repairing individual or institutional reputations and credibility. This can involve ongoing media relations, publicity assistance for positive stories, and extensive “roadmapping” to develop a strategy that will push the client up from the bottom and back up to the top of the famed “reputational clock” that governs media coverage.
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