Opposites Attract: Law Firms and PR Firms Uncover Value in Collaborating

Author: Peter Shafer

A court of law can be much different than the court of public opinion. Executives at all levels of management understand the need to be prepared to do battle in both. And that is where law firms and public relations firms, especially digital marketing firms, can play an essential role in leading executives through challenging legal and public affairs issues.

Court of Law v. Court of Public Opinion

Traditionally, most law firms shied away from using public relations firms on corporate issues mainly because it heightened risks that might damage a legal case. The idea that “silence cannot be quoted” led many attorneys to severely limit any internal and external discussions of an issue. By controlling both the messages and news flow, attorneys attempted to reduce potential damage without exposing vulnerabilities for legal adversaries.

Law Firms Finding Value in PR Collaborations

And while the “silence cannot be quoted” strategy is still in use, the ease and speed at which information on an issue can emerge and spread have changed dramatically. Those shifts in communications, primarily digital, are opening more conversations between attorneys and experts in public relations and digital marketing. These conversations lead to partnerships that aim to limit the potential impact of an issue on a company’s bottom line.

A Collaboration of Law and PR

As executives address complex issues, such as employee social activism and “back-to-work” policies, the legal angles also need to be reviewed through the lenses of communications and social media. For example, in a recent poll, 43% of not vaccinated people said they would get vaccinated because their employer required it, an increase of nearly 10% in less than 30 days. The lawyers and HR executives worked through the policy implications of these mandates. And the PR and digital agency experts undoubtedly worked through rolling out these messages to employees and the public – a prime example of productive collaboration. By getting things “right,” the result was a positive, observable change in behavior.

Collaboration between law firms and public relations firms can be impactful at all community levels, especially when media coverage is involved. In the most recent Pew survey on media, overall “trust” in media has dwindled to its lowest point since Pew began measuring trust in media. But a majority of people “trust” their local media more than national media, almost by a 2-to-1 margin. Additionally, the large majority of Republicans do not trust national media, but a majority of Democrats do trust national media. Because of these shifting dynamics, communications executives and attorneys must collaborate to ensure the best messages reach the public and their audiences across all media channels.

Creating Competitive Advantages for Law Firms

Public relations and digital marketing firms can help various law firms with several key elements when building strategies to address key corporate issues:

  • Research and Digital Audits – public relations firms constantly conduct primary and secondary research focused on trends, public opinion, brand strength, and media consumption habits. This market research presents a critical way law firms can partner with public relationships firms to understand issue dynamics better and plan for possible scenarios ahead of time. Regarding digital audits, a thorough assessment of a person or group’s digital properties and online reputation is imperative to understand the relationship between search engine results and digital personas. Conducting such an audit allows a firm like Everest Communications to fully understand a digital footprint and strategize how best to move forward for the client’s benefit.

  • Competitive Intelligence Gathering – staying abreast of how competitors react as issues emerge is an integral part of crafting legal and public relations strategies. Often, balancing those objectives can help avoid losing market share, customers, sales revenues, and harming vendor relationships. In most cases, issues play out over a longer time frame, allowing competitors and others to adjust their strategies and actions mid-course. Monitoring competitive shifts and gathering intelligence from and on other audiences like investors, Wall Street, Capitol Hill, Governors, Mayors, and local officials are essential to staying informed.
  • Social Media Scanning – public relations firms have certainly upped their game regarding monitoring and measuring all types of social media. This capability is becoming even more valuable to law firms, especially in developing responses to issues on both global and targeted levels. For example, digital marketing firms understand using various social media platforms to monitor, reach, and mobilize the grassroots.

  • Online Advertising and Placement – digital marketing agencies can develop strategies to place advertising and messaging. Social ads (i.e, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube), display, and search ads can shift and shape opinions issue important to a company. For example, some law firms have created 501c4 groups to help distribute critical information and intelligence on a topic. The 501c4 allows the law firm to build a coalition of key stakeholders when a problem could impact many companies at the same time. Often, law firms partner with public relations firms to manage these groups.

  • Media Coverage and Key Journalists – public relations firms have extensive capabilities in monitoring media outlets and journalists who consistently write about specific issues. And with the continued fissure of news coverage in the United States, understanding these media can help manage how an issue emerges and moves along. The news cycle is very different than the legal cycle. Understanding both can be important as a matter progresses.

By partnering with public relations and digital marketing firms on one or all of these five areas, law firms can provide invaluable counsel on reducing and mitigating risks. And having a solid and clear understanding of how intelligent digital strategies can impact various audiences and constituencies is a competitive advantage.

Providing Clients Legal and Public Risk Mitigation

The combined skills and experiences of attorneys and digital marketing executives can provide extensive and measurable value to a client. A collaboration between law firms and public relations firms, like Everest Communications, leads to better outcomes and results for clients from having a broader and more accurate perspective to better capabilities to assess potential risks of an issue. Combining these expertise areas can save a company money in both the short and long term by shortening its time to identify, calculate, and respond to risks. Legal and PG collaborations create messaging and narrative strategies tailored to, consistent with, and protective of the overall company and its brand reputation.