A common phrase touts that “all press is good press,” but any legal professional worth their salt knows that to be untrue. Negative publicity, whether in the form of poor client reviews or a social media campaign gone wrong, can severely damage a law firm’s reputation and slow a steady stream of business to a mere trickle.

So what do you do when a publication runs a negative news story about your firm? The suggestions below may just help you navigate a sticky legal marketing situation and come out on top.

1.      Don’t wait to gather information.

Responding prematurely to a situation without knowing all the facts can land you in hot water, but wait too long and you risk the chance of letting the story spiral out of control. When faced with a situation that compromises the integrity of your brand, immediately jump into information gathering mode in order to arm yourself with the facts.

2.      Analyze information to determine the best course of action (or inaction).

Sometimes, staying quiet about a situation and letting things blow over is the best thing to do. In most other cases, the best public relations move incorporates a statement from your law firm. This could involve:

  • A response negating supposed “facts” represented in the article or feature
  • An admittance that you are currently gathering the facts and investigating the situation, but have not come to conclusions
  • A confirmation of knowledge about the situation, and an apology (note: this approach should only be taken after thorough analysis and discussion; it should not be a knee-jerk response to bad press)

The second option above may be the correct route to take if you feel that you absolutely must release a statement but are still scrambling to dissect the incident and form a legal marketing plan of action. It can convince others that you are aware and in control of the situation, which may calm the hubbub long enough to quickly and efficiently resolve the issue.

With that said, do not be afraid to first stay quiet and resist the urge to respond to bad press. Use your time and energy to gather information and monitor the situation so you can be prepared to release a comprehensive public statement when necessary.

3.      Get in touch with the outlet spreading the story.

It may be tempting to chew out the person responsible for releasing a detrimental story to the public, but this will only make the situation worse. If you get the publication’s editor or writer on the phone, be sure to use the conversation to clear up misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the facts.

Although the reporter will most likely refuse to release a follow-up story representing your side of the story, he or she may be more willing to represent your firm well in the future.

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