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6 March 2019

Defending company reputation before the court of public opinion

Marianna Valletta |
Valletta Relazioni Pubbliche

The risk of criminal prosecution does not only concern the purely legal aspects of a company. The most devastating economic impact can come from the reputational crisis. Companies are asked to face a trial not only before Courts, but also before the public opinion, which is held by the media.

“What do I risk by this criminal prosecution?” This is probably the first question a lawyer is asked from his client. But when the client is a company in need of trustful relations with its stakeholders, the risk isn’t just a legal matter, but also a reputational one.

A legal proceeding may end with the verification of a non-existence of the facts and consequently it may not have any effects on business continuity and operations. But, as everybody knows, the timing of trials is way longer than the media’s one. For this reason, it is crucial, especially for outstanding companies holding reputed brands, to get prepared setting crisis management methods to govern media in case of the occurrence of facts similar to the ones described in the 4cLegal Academy episode “Give the floor to the defense”. In the episode, in facts, Andrea Puccio – name partner of Puccio Law Firm - points out to the competing talents how managing this process also includes managing and defending the client reputation, an aspect which is not perceived as part of a lawyers’ service offering.

Lawyers, in fact, are often called upon to act as official spokesmen for the company, in order to spread through the media a version of the facts functional to the current proceeding.

Anyway, it is not a matter of telling only a functional version, but also of having the capability to preserve the reputation of the company, its image and its relations with markets (especially when the company is a listed one), clients and prospects in general. Company legal responsibility is filled with ethical responsibility. This is where the company most risks to destroy its trustful relation with public opinion.

Rebalancing the mediatic representation of the news

It is a fact that media usually stand for accusation. (Potential) guilt make news. For this reason, it is important to avoid any hostility and to offer a more balanced version of the facts. The narration framing, the amount of details, the ability to explain complex juridical elements with an understandable language for common people, these elements can make the difference in defending the reputation of the company, its brands and management. Acting rapidly with punctual claims can help reduce risks of a partial and unfaithful representation just based on accusation arguments. Hiding one’s position with silence is read by the media and by the audience as not being open, and consequently as a confirm of guilt.


Also available on 4clegal.com

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