PRO Sports Communications CEO Melinda Travis led a webinar for PRSA last week addressing the relationship between the PR and legal teams in high-profile crisis situations. Here are five key takeaways:
1. PR and lEgal can be A Powerful Partnership
The partnership between the legal strategy (court of law) and the communications strategy (court of public opinion) is a powerful one and, with the right tactics, can be incredibly influential. The legal strategy should always take precedence and shape the backbone of the communications plan.
2. UNDERSTAND the Difference between Facts vs. Perception
The court of law deals in facts
The court of public opinion deals in perception
Problems arise because facts can be incorrectly perceived as a consequence of how they are communicated to the media
3. Create a Game Plan
Manage the media
Communicate the facts and complex legal issues
Correct false information / “kill” stories that are incorrect
Be the counsel’s eyes and ears in the media
Balance the story
4. Information is valuable
The strategic communications teams acts as the middleman between the lawyers and the media in which information and access are currency traded both ways.
5. Know your Tools of the Trade
“Off the record” - “On the background” - “On deep background” conversations
The goal of a strategic communications team should always be to achieve the lawyer's primary legal objectives. In doing so, the story should shift sentiment over time (from negative to neutral or neutral to positive), affect public perception and influence the jury pool.
The full webinar can be accessed through PRSA's online database, which is free to members and can be found here.
Melinda Travis is the CEO of PRO Sports Communications, an LA-based full service communications agency. A sports industry veteran, Travis has experience on both sides of the media equation, as a reporter and PR professional. With previous posts in the NBA and MLB, Travis has worked with a variety of athletes and organizations at the professional, Olympic and collegiate levels. Her firm has been involved in a number of high profile matters, including Penn State and the case against Lance Armstrong, representing key witness Tyler Hamilton. Travis holds a journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.