I have been asked this question numerous times. There are two answers: yes and no. That is probably not what you wanted to hear, however it is often true. When working with the federal government, attorneys, accountants and high-level corporate executives, it can be an issue when trying to build a portfolio. Unfortunately it means you may not be able to mention your accomplishments for these clients in writing or on the internet.
So what can you do when a confidentiality agreement stands in your way?
The good news is you can be vague and that’s legal. Speak and write in generalities, describing your tasks and accomplishments. If asked which company or case this work applied to specifically, just mention the industry instead. There is never a time when you are representing yourself to others — whether to the law or an individual trying to learn more about your expertise — that you should say “I can’t comment” or “I can’t talk about that.” The proper response would be , “I would love to describe that for you; please let me get back to you with the correct information.”
This allows you to reach out to the parties involved and learn more about what you can say, based on the questions you have been asked. If an attorney is looking to check your expertise in a certain area, don’t worry about it — chances are, you have already been checked out. The same is true with the federal government. If you are looking for additional work as a public relations professional in law (for example), your reputation will follow you.
Next time, I will talk about crisis management in working with law enforcement or attorneys and how to handle the media.