Litigation Communication Principles

2. Own the issue.  Never say, “No comment” or “I can’t comment because of the pending litigation.” The story will be written without you.  If you don’t comment on a story regarding litigation, who will?  Provide a statement even if it is to simply reiterate, in 1-2 sentences, your point of view. We counsel our clients to simply state “While we can’t speak to the litigation in detail, we can say we don’t believe the legal claims have merit” followed by a sentence that restates their position.

3. Prepare a short set of holding statements, Q&A, and key messages.  These should be vetted by management and counsel.  And, while they may be adapted, they can increase speed to response, which is essential.  Generally, do not try to debate a point of view with your opposition in the press.  Make your point and move forward.

4. Align your internal, customer and social media communications with your earned media.  Each should be consistent with and reinforce one another.  Anything you disseminate on litigation should be considered a public document, even if it is an internal communication.   Assume it will be leaked.

5. Consider alternate sources to which to direct media inquiries. This could include third-party experts, trade associations, standards entities, or prior litigation on a similar topic which supports your position.

6. Continue to do your day-to-day business, fill your content pipeline, and lead.  At the end of the day, if a court judgment is reached for the other side, acknowledge it and clearly communicate what you are doing as a result. Conversely, if the judgment is found in your favor, acknowledge it in a manner consistent with your company values.   

Net, litigation is a fact of life today. However, by communicating appropriately, it doesn’t have to unnecessarily harm your brand or organization’s shorter-term perceptions or longer-term reputation. 

RMC has helped a number of clients who are dealing with litigation to find the right tone and balance in communications.  And, while most organizations won’t comment on litigation, much less take an aggressive public position, we know that polls over the years suggest that most consumers perceive a simple “no comment” in the same vein as an admission of guilt.

Here are six principles that can help guide litigation communications:

1. Move and respond quickly.  We live in a fast-paced world often driven by 180-character tweets that change topics by the minute.  Stay in front of the landscape – don’t let it bury you in paralysis by analysis.   Communications should be aligned with your attorneys and the legal strategy.   Legal and communications teams should work closely.