In my last post, I talked about how confidentiality agreements with attorneys or other high level executives might affect your portfolio. There are many terms for everything in the PR world but here I will tell you what it means to field the media for attorneys and how to make sure you are prepared for a crisis that may arise during a case. First, a background check is done before you are hired to rule out anything in your background that may have a negative impact on the case being worked on.
That is mostly for life and death cases. For high profile cases that can affect the worth or protection of an estate, that may require less screening by an attorney (or law firm, but for our purposes here we will say attorney). After you are selected, the case is discussed only after you have signed a confidentiality agreement. Then you are brought up to speed and your name is listed on any documents submitted to the court that gives you permission to talk the press and for them to talk to you.
In any case it is imperative to have a script written out for you to use when the media calls looking for information. The script will have what you are allowed to discuss and what you can’t. The big picture here is to make sure you are as transparent as you can be to keep anything scandalous from being written and to keep your answers short and concise. It takes skill to answer the right way which is another reason for a script, as questions being asked are not always on your list. You have to remain open, calm and NEVER under any circumstances say “no comment” or “I can’t answer that” as those are negative connotations that can be taken as something is being hidden rather than protected. Cindy Rakowitz, co-author of Emergency Public Relations, Crisis Management in a 3.0 World goes into great detail in the book about phrases that are no longer an option to say to the press or public in general. One of those phrases is “no comment.”
SO, if you are asked to “field the media” and you are not a PR pro or have no training in crisis management, be honest and upfront about that. Recommend someone you know and trust that has the experience to do it right. As for me, if it was a HUGE case that was extremely high profile and I was asked to field the media I would offer Cindy Rakowitz as a referral for the attorney I was working with and offer to assist her. No shame in constantly learning from those who know more that we do. Smaller cases I am comfortable with!