In the court of public opinion, PR firms are the new law firms.
The consequences of losing in a court of law are dire, but the consequences of a simple accusation in the court of public opinion are catastrophic. The truth almost never sets you free.
In a court of law your rights are documented and protected. There are rules. The search for truth is the ultimate goal (even if it often falls short). The court room has an experienced adjudicator who keeps the playing field level. You’re entitled to trained and professional representation and the prosecution will fight hard, but fairly.
None of this means anything on Twitter. Or Tik Tok. The modern day scandal no longer plays out on the fact-checked pages of the 4th estate, by an ethics-bound journalist and guided by an experienced sub-editor. Today’s crises rocket around the globe at 140 characters per minutes across a thousand micro-influencer accounts. Parody and meme propel the social news cycle while assumptions and feelings form the basis of each narrative. All of which is far more interesting than the truth. Facts be damned.
A guilty verdict in the jury of your peers, no matter the crime, is a social death sentence.
The only effective means of mitigating this scenario is to employ the services of a new type of PR counsellor. One who's ditched the blazer-jean combo for the Harvey Spector 3 piece while clutching an Ivy League MBA. She's strikingly intelligent, devastatingly articulate and highly professional. A master of the boardroom and the ringleader of the media circus. Best you keep quiet and pay attention. Let her do her job.
Navigating the halls of public opinion requires decades of experience, a deft hand at word craft and an expert level intuition on social issues de jour. It’s in this environment where the law simply doesn’t move fast enough, and even if it did, against whom would it be targeted in defence? While your $900 an hour attorney may protect you from mobsters, they’re not much help against the crowd mentality of an online mob.
The risk to individuals and corporates alike has become too large to ignore. We've seen cataclysmic damage to reputations that affect earnings and valuations across the board and it's in this space that reputation has found itself at the forefront as a priority business function. Where before reputation sat within marketing as a 'something-we-should-think-about', we're now seeing more forward thinking corporates placing it in the hands of Risk and Compliance teams. Right along side Finance and, yes, Legal.
McDonald's lost over $4 Billion in value after a scandal involving the CEO made headlines in November last year. The cost of a scandal far outweighs the penalty of a lawsuit. It's too little too late to save the house that's burning. The only way to stay ahead is to prepare, like many progressive businesses are doing right now. Preparedness and mitigation plans are the best tools you can arm yourself with if you want to get out the other side alive. That's reputation capital. Not even Harvey Spector can protect that.