In a rapidly changing landscape, tech companies often find themselves at the forefront of innovation—and scrutiny. When navigating a public crisis, GCs play a crucial role in steering the ship.

To gain insights on how to establish a robust crisis management plan, we spoke with four experienced leaders: Newfront’s Chief Marketing Officer Bethany Hale, Director of Communications Traci Johnson, Experiential Director Ryan Jordan, and Susan Stick, who recently joined Life360 as its GC and was previously GC and SVP People at Evernote.

The Anatomy of a Robust Crisis Management Plan

To kick things off, we tackled the essential steps required to build a crisis management plan capable of addressing a range of issues, from reputation damage to legal liabilities and stakeholder communication.

  • Cross-functional Partnership: The general counsels should partner cross-functionally to lay out the company’s basic response framework.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Establish an immediate core group that is activated during a crisis. This governance group will gather essential facts and sketch out a clear picture.
  • Communication Strategy: Develop a specific communications outline that addresses priority audiences, including both stakeholders (such as clients, board members, investors) and internal teams.

“Employees are often the first point of contact for client questions. A knowledgeable, confident answer from an employee can be the turning point in a client’s experience during the crisis,” emphasizes Traci Johnson of Newfront’s Marketing organization.

Tackling Negative Press

“Develop a rapid response team that immediately activates members of the legal, communications, and PR teams during a crisis,” advises Newfront’s CMO Hale. Ideally, this team should have scenario plans prepared for events like data breaches or executive misconduct. In this way, having outlined responses to consult will facilitate faster response times when a crisis arises.
Furthermore, transparent, honest communication that responds strictly to the facts of the event will help companies shape a clear and consistent narrative. This will also help your team avoid being drawn into unnecessary responses that may be hasty, emotionally-charged, or stray beyond established legal guardrails.

Better yet, Susan Stick suggests proactively working with your marketing and creative teams to avoid potential negative press by focusing on, “making sure your brand and partnership expressions are authentic, rather than trendy.”

Managing Regulatory Inquiries

Navigating regulatory inquiries demands quick and thorough action. Learning from the SVB crisis, here’s how to efficiently coordinate between legal, compliance, and communications departments.

  • Preparation is Key
    Companies should preemptively create a framework for potential crisis scenarios. Regular meetings among the C-suite, including the CEO, CCO, and GC, are crucial to act out responses, particularly to regulatory requests.

  • Designated Contacts
    A shortlist of internal contacts trained in media handling should be established. They will serve as the go-to points for media queries and should be guided by the legal team on ways to avoid legal pitfalls during a public response.

  • Information Centralization
    These designated contacts should be well-versed in their fields, like regulatory compliance, and hold the key information required for media interactions. They are also responsible for approving the final public response.

The convergence of legal, communication, and PR strategies is increasingly crucial in today’s fast-paced media landscape. In facing negative press or regulatory inquiries, GCs play a pivotal role, not just in assessing the legal implications, but also in shaping the company’s public narrative.

By working closely with communications and PR teams, and through proactive scenario planning, companies can navigate these challenges more effectively. The key lies in preparation, swift action, and adherence to factual information, setting the groundwork for transparent and legally sound public responses.

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