The following article on appeared in American Lawyer's Corporate Counsel magazine, discussing legal crisis response, on August 24, 2015:
New Tool Takes Crisis Communications Online
Rebekah Mintzer, Corporate Counsel
There are very few areas of an in-house lawyer’s life today that haven’t been affected by new technologies. From e-discovery to case management, the law department is now powering up and logging on to get some of its most important work done quicker, easier and, perhaps, better. So why should crisis communications, a brief well within the general counsel’s purview, be any different?
This is the idea that led attorney and communications consultant Jim Haggerty to create CrisisResponsePro, an online subscription portal
allowing in-house attorneys, as well as their colleagues in public relations, outside firms and business units, to take a more efficient and collaborative approach to dealing with a crisis.
Corporate Counsel and Legal Crisis Response
Part of the challenge for many companies facing a crisis, Haggerty told CorpCounsel.com, is a surprisingly low level of preparation. “It’s amazing how few companies have crisis plans in place, and if they do, it’s often hidden in a book or buried in a server somewhere,” he said. Another important component of reacting to a crisis, Haggerty added, is speed. If a company can’t rally its response team immediately after an incident, it’s easy to lose control of the narrative that media coverage creates. “You’ve got to be one step ahead for every step of the process,” he noted.
CrisisResponsePro attempts to get companies in gear by creating a virtual workroom, where all of a company’s internal stakeholders in a crisis, plus outside counsel, can share information about events as they unfold. Importantly, once counsel become part of the workroom conversation, communications fall under attorney-client privilege, keeping the privacy of these exchanges protected. Each workroom also has a document vault, where the response team can securely organize and store documentation connected to the crisis.
Besides trying to figure out how to communicate with each other in an efficient and organized way in the event of a corporate crisis, another problem in-house counsel and their response teams may struggle with is how to address the press—and how to do it fast. “I’m big on the fact that the in-house counsel is often the chief crisis officer,” said Haggerty. However, in his experience, lawyers’ instincts and training generally prompt them to want to keep as much information from the media for as long as possible, a philosophy not necessarily fit for a corporate PR emergency. When investors, regulators and employees have a vested interest in how a crisis is unfolding, saying as little as possible is often not the right approach.
To help in-house lawyers and their crisis management teams, CrisisResponsePro has a database full of thousands of public statements collected from companies having faced a wide variety of major problems, from massive data breaches to physical accidents to ongoing litigation and investigations. These templates can be tweaked and reformatted quickly to make the process of dealing with the public and the press easier.
The platform also includes news and analyses of some of today’s biggest crises (type in “Deflategate” for instance and plenty of hits will show up). It also has checklists for companies needing a road map to follow in the hours, days and weeks after a disaster.
So far, Haggerty said, feedback has been positive. “Our experience has been that CrisisResponsePro is an excellent tool, one that greatly speeds response and collaboration,” Alan Ratner, president of Hugo Neu Recycling, an electronics recycling firm, told CorpCounsel.com. “When negative incidents occur, coordination is key, and technology can give companies in any industry a tremendous edge."
NEW YORK, NY (April 2, 2015) – James F. Haggerty, attorney, communications consultant, and founder of CrisisResponsePro Inc., today announced he has reached an agreement with Ankerwycke Books to publish his new book, Chief Crisis Officer, a critical look at the systems, technology, and leadership needed for the modern practice of crisis communications.
Written for business executives, public relations professionals, high-profile individuals and lawyers, Chief Crisis Officer will argue that every company and organization needs to identify a key individual who will take the lead in preparing for crisis communications response, as well as responding effectively when the inevitable crisis hits. With a lively mix of real-life examples, anecdotes, and practical strategies, Chief Crisis Officer will break down various forms of crisis and provide both a strategic approach and proper tools to enable the Chief Crisis Officer to assemble his or her team quickly, and respond – effectively and efficiently – when negative issues threaten to damage the reputation and credibility of businesses, organizations or individuals.
The book will also feature analysis of a handful of high-profile cases that have made news in recent years, including the Target data breach, General Motors’ crisis over faulty ignition switches and the BP oil spill. Haggerty will also feature several cases that his firm has been involved with, where effective response has made the difference between a crisis that is managed and one that quickly spins out of control.
A well-known attorney and communications consultant, Haggerty is the author of In The Court of Public Opinion: Winning Strategies for Litigation Communications, which was first published in 2003 by John Wiley & Sons, and published in a second edition by the American Bar Association in 2009. In The Court of Public Opinion was the first business trade book to examine the interplay of media, public relations, and public perception during litigation. In The Court of Public Opinion was named one of the top the Top 10 PR books of the year by The Holmes Report, while Financial Times called it “the perfect handbook for this age…” It was positively featured in publications that include The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Herald, PR Week, O’Dwyer’s PR Report, and the (New York) Daily News.
Haggerty is also a columnist for American Lawyer’s Corporate Counsel magazine. In that role, he has been twice nominated for a Neal Award, considered “the most prestigious editorial award in business-to-business journalism.” He is the only full-time public relations professional ever to be honored in such a manner.
About Ankerwycke Books
Ankerwycke is a new trade-book publishing imprint created in 2014 by the American Bar Association, a leading publisher of legal trade books. The Ankerwycke imprint is geared toward a broader consumer and business market. With history, true crime, legal fiction, and guides to current legal, business, and public-policy issues, Ankerwycke is a contemporary and innovative line of books for everyone, from a trusted and recognized publishing authority.