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Litigation: a real risk to corporate reputation

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Published in PRIA (Vic) monthly newsletter October 2010

Litigation PR is a relatively new practice area in Australia and should not simply be seen as an extension of crisis management, because different disciplines are required.

Litigation presents a real risk to corporate reputation. Litigation attracts media attention, as parties in conflict always make a good story. Public opinion is often formed in the early days of any legal issue and that opinion often sides with whom ever has initiated the action. The initiator of the action usually sets the agenda, but effective public relations can reverse this position or enhance it.

Public pressure and risk to reputation is now clearly counted as a weapon in the legal arsenal, with regulators even using it as a tactic.

Lawyers are often blamed for restricting public comments in order to protect the legal position of their client. The inherent requirements for confidentiality and privilege often dictate a response of ‘no comment’ which leaves litigants open to implied guilt.

Experienced litigation PR practitioners are able to set a communication strategy to support the legal priorities and still deliver a good public relations result.

With the right practitioners legal and PR can work together to ensure that the client not only achieves its legal aims but also its reputational objectives. Litigation can in fact become an opportunity to enhance reputation, given the platform that the media interest creates.