Welcome back to another Ask Me Anything, a weekly series where we talk to our friends, our viewers, and our community about all of their pressing needs, questions, wants, and desires.
Let’s take a look at the mailbag to see which questions are burning this week.
How do I work effectively with lawyers during a crisis (or just about anytime!)?
Working With Lawyers During a Crisis
In the very, very, very, very beginning of my agency’s life, we did a ton of crisis work with a law firm. They were trial attorneys and they almost always hired us to help with the court of public opinion for many of their clients.
We did everything from asbestos in buildings and landlords not wanting to take care of it to discrimination to employees being fired because they were gay. We did all sorts of work.
What I learned during that process is that some lawyers want to feel like they’re the smartest people in the room.
And, in this case, because they were trial attorneys, they were.
We learned very quickly that if we appealed to their brains and to their human sides, we could build trust really quickly which enabled us to build relationships with them as human beings first.
As my agency has grown and we’ve continued to do some of that work, I’ve found that one of the very first things you can do is bring the lawyers in to get their opinion.
One of the very worst things you can do is bring them in after everything is created and ask for their approval.
That does not work.
Last year we were working on a huge crisis and one of the very first things I did after we got hired is call their general counsel.
I told him that we needed to have a pow-wow and I asked a bunch of questions, took notes, and listened.
Because of that, he felt like he was involved in the process and he felt like he was part of the team and he felt like we were collaborating with him.
You Need Them—They Need You
Every time we needed to do something—craft new messaging, write a news release, write website copy, or talk to reporters, I would call him first.
I would say, “Hey, listen. We are about to embark on this, this, and this and I need your thinking around it.”
Because I brought him into the process ahead of time and let him have his say (and incorporated his thinking), he was extremely easy to work with.
What tends to happen is we get everything created and then we bring the lawyers in—and that just doesn’t work.
If you bring them in, in the beginning, their advice, get them involved, and let them take a stab at the first draft of messaging, they tend to be willing to work with you.
But not only that, their job is to protect you and the business. You need them!
So yes, I have found that if you really work on bringing them in, in the beginning, ask a bunch of questions, let them take the first stab at the messaging, and then collaborate on how to create it so that it works both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, that tends to work.
This approach may not work for you all of you and it may not work for the attorneys in your world, but that has been what’s worked for me.
Have a Question For Us?
What about you? How do you work with lawyers during a crisis (or in other situations) so your communications needs are met?
Let us know in the comments below.
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You can also find us on social media, email us, or stop by my house with a bottle of wine for porch drinking.