Your company is getting sued. Plaintiff's counsel employs a dual-front strategy --- hammer at you in court and hammer harder in the press. Your lawyers are adamant about staying out of a back-and-forth in the newspaper, so you're more or less forced to concede the field to your opponent as he chips away at your brand, your reputation, your workforce morale and your customer base. By the time the case is settled, you may or may not have anything left that's worth protecting.
It's a powerless feeling. And it's one companies,cities, agencies and non-profits find themselves in every day. Fortunately, there are things you can do and steps you can take to defend your position and reputation without complicating your legal strategy. They're not obvious to most companies, even to corporate communications specialists. And, even the most open-minded litigator is going to have be talked into going along with them.
But the alternative is just awful. Take the case of ADT, the security system provider. They're being sued by the family of a murdered woman in Minnesota. The woman bought an alarm system to protect her from a dangerous ex-boyfriend who later managed to cut her phone lines, smash a patio door, enter the home and murder her without triggering the alarm.
ADT, wisely enough, is not commenting on the lawsuit in the press. Well, not officially anyway. In a story today, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune cites a filing the company made in the case that claims the local police agency is to blame for the woman's death. If the suspect had been arrested following an earlier incident, they argue, the victim would be alive today.
It's one of those arguments that might be made for any number of reasons in the context of a lawsuit. It almost certainly wasn't intended to represent the company's public response to the matter. And yet, there it is, glaring out at the reader as representative of who the company is. Worse still, it's surrounded by umpteen paragraphs chronicling the company's woes with other litigation and customer complaints.
It's one thing to decide you're not going to talk about pending litigation. But often, that makes your litigator's words and filings the official voice of your company when your reputation is on the line. And that can mean trouble.