A crisis can hit lawyers and law firms in many different ways and the best time to prepare is before something bad happens. A crisis plan and communication strategy is crucial for your firm and your leadership to overcome the situation. How would your firm respond to a crisis? We recommend following these 4 steps when preparing your response plan:
- Have a Plan BEFORE any crisis has hit.
Think about the possible scenarios and prepare a response for each of the scenarios you envision. It should include a lot of different areas depending on the issue. For example, include the IT director if it is a cyberattack or make the HR involved if the crisis involves a firm employee. Your firm should have a customized crisis plan and an online strategy for each scenario that will determine who will communicate relevant information and draft key messages and media statements depending on the issue. Furthermore, speakers for the firm should be selected and agreed upon in advance with a protocol for communicating to the media.
- Run through the plan.
Although the plan may seem solid in your head and on the paper, it doesn’t always hold up in real life. In order to ensure the plan works and that everyone knows what to do, your firm should create a real-life crisis simulation. However, don’t just try to get through the simulation. Focus on accomplishing the firm`s objectives during the crisis instead. While the situation may be fictional, the stakes are real. At the end of the simulation, ask yourself these questions: Did the right messages get communicated to the right audiences and in the right way? Did the response team know their roles?
- Know how to deal with the media.
Remember, one person should be dedicated to communicate messages to the media and everyone in the firm should know who this person is. This will avoid conflicting reports or misinformation.
- Create a media playbook.
This playbook is for dealing with the media and should cover the details of what happened, a holding statement on what the firm is doing to address the crisis and a sincere apology if the firm is somehow at fault. Be prepared for the following media scenarios:
- When you don’t know the answer, just tell the reporter you don’t know and offer to find out.
- When you are asked a yes or no question, don’t feel confined to their question. Instead, provide a bridge to bring up the point you would like to make.
- When they ask for your personal opinion, keep in mind that it is never about your personal opinion if you represent the firm.
Media is going to cover your law firm`s crisis with or without your firm`s input. But your involvement can help shape the story and improve your firm`s image in the public eye. A well-handled crisis will make the story runs and dies afterward.