The VW diesel scandal, the FIFA corruption affair and the Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial differ substantially in cause, substance, and verdict. However, these court cases have one common denominator: the widespread broadcasting of their facts in the media. The consequences are manifold. Enormous reputational damage and financial losses can result. Court cases have a high media profile, which is why they carry large risks. To contain the consequences and facilitate a fair trial, public relations before and during court proceedings is an incredibly important tool.
The judgement of the public opinion is made in the media
It is not without good reason that the media often is referred to as the fourth estate. There are several factors at play here. For example, in today’s age, competition is fierce. Online, a wide variety of news sites vie for readers, or rather, the clicks of users, with which they measure their success and generate revenue. To do this, “stories” must be presented and told in such a way, that they attract attention. The media does not always succeed in reconciling this with their information mandate.
Court cases with prominent protagonists, whether organisation or individual, attract the attention of the masses and the media. This can quickly lead to reputational damage, regardless of the outcome of the court case, which then can additionally scare off clients, suppliers, and other partners. The usual public affairs work is also made more difficult when politicians turn their backs. However, it would be wrong to see the media only as a threat. To produce media articles, journalists need relevant information. By providing such and doing so in a comprehensive and not legally encoded form, one can contribute to balanced reporting. A similar kind of sensitisation must take place with the authorities and political bodies involvedin order to safeguard one’s interest. However, you must be aware that the competition never sleeps, but also strives for sovereignty of information.
Against this background, litigation PR has several objectives, depending on the case. These include the following:
- Protect against reputational damage: litigation discussed in the general public can lead to long-term reputational damage and affect a company’s performance. By actively engaging with the media, more balanced reporting can be achieved, which prevents the systematic maligning of your own party.
- Maintaining stakeholder relationships: Litigation that attracts a lot of negative attention threatens relationships with customers, suppliers, and other business partners, as well as KOLs and politicians.
- Raising awareness of authorities: In complicated cases, other authorities are involved in addition to courts, e.g. in international proceedings such as international legal assistance procedures, where the outcome is influenced by all parties at the diplomatic level. As communication is less institutionalised there, it is important to also inform these authorities about your side of the events to achieve a fair trial.
- Reaching a favourable settlement: Court cases are an expensive and lengthy affair. An out-of-court settlement is usually quicker and cheaper for both parties involved. Pressure can be built up via the media to get the other party to sit down at the negotiating table in the first place, to prevent reputational damage.
Litigation PR does not determine right and wrong. This is the task of the rule of law, the prosecutors and especially the judges. The goal of Litigation PR is balanced reporting, which aims to ensure an objective view of a legal dispute.
Litigation PR requires experience and a network
In order to conduct litigation PR efficiently, various skills and prerequisites are necessary. First, a strategy must be developed based on a basic narrative. This must clearly describe the circumstances and the role of the organisation or individual. Furthermore, a broad network with close contacts to journalists is needed, for which a contact person should always be available for additional conversations. In addition, information about the court case must be prepared for the relevant stakeholders. Clarity, comprehensibility, transparency, and timeliness are of utmost importance.
Litigation PR is gaining increasing traction in Switzerland. Thomas Borer was rightly called the “man of the first hour” at the last Litigation PR Conference. Before the term had even reached the German-speaking world, Dr Thomas Borer was already able to experience the impact of litigation PR in his mandate as head of the “Switzerland-Second World War” task force. Since then, the world has changed a lot, especially the channels of information dissemination. However, with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Borer Consulting is one of the most experienced and proven litigation PR consultancies in Switzerland and beyond. Thanks to our many years of experience, we know the workings of the media landscape, how the various channels ought to be weighted, and how our broad network can be used accordingly.
If you would like to learn more about our Litigation PR services, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or +41 43 499 73 83.