Carl Whitaker, who heads his own Berkley, Calif.-based legal PR firm, discussed litigation PR from both the standpoint of the plaintiff and the defense's legal team in an interview with the Legal Broadcast Network.
Key for the plaintiff's side, he said, is honing a narrative that doesn't fall into hype that will be ignored (or worse) by reporters. One of the simplest ways to do that is to stress the victim and the villain in a case.
But Whitaker acknowledges that in litigatation, unfortunately, things are rarely so black and white. "You try to tell the simple story without totally gutting it and provide the opportunity for a reporter who has the time to dig a little deeper," he said.
Noting that defense attorneys tend to be more tighter lipped, Whitaker said its important for legal defense counsel to outline its PR strategy in the sense of what it can say to show reporters the legal team wants to be helpful. Focusing on procedural information, is one example of providing information that wouldn't compromise a case, he said.
In defense cases where a lot of negative press or misinformation is flowing, a legal defense team would be best served to turn up the PR dial. "There are times when you want to go counter to that defensiveness and give your side of the story," said Whitaker. "You don't want your client getting toasted in the press."
Whitaker also talks about what plaintiffs should do when they have a defense team on the run in a PR battle, as well as PR strategy for class actions and high profile cases that need to raise public issues alongside a legal strategy.