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Communication with the press

A journalist calls. What should you do?

A journalist calls. What should you do?

It is not always a good thing when a representative of the press calls. In many instances, such a call starts a chain reaction with unexpected consequences and dangers for the reputation of persons, products or companies.

The expert team  of LHR – Brands, Media, Reputation – is often asked: “What is the correct way to deal with a press inquiry?” Our response is almost always the same: “Proceed with caution!” Affected individuals are often completely inexperienced about dealing with the press. In such cases, experts in media law can serve as experienced strategists in moments of crisis.

Reasons for critical press inquiries

  • Preliminary proceedings have been initiated
  • There was an accident at the company
  • Employees are allegedly involved in illegal activities
  • Whistleblowers have tipped off the press or an employee has contacted a member of the press
  • The internet makes mountains out of molehills
The problem is this: There isn’t merely a simple need for information to satisfy. Behind every press inquiry, there is frequently a secret yearning of the writer for a terrific story. And that can occur when the interview partner says too much, is too affable, becomes aggressive or appeals to the journalist’s sense of conscience. 

“Good news is bad news” is a media truism that can serve as a guide on how to respond. Use careful consideration to ensure that the scandal falls apart, that the consequences are mitigated or the that the veracity is generally questioned.

LHR has successfully represented banks, underwriting houses and capital markets product developers in over 200 cases

We have conducted in excess of 200 proceedings for our clients during the past three years against those who initiated unlawful reporting. These included the who’s who of the financial press, the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest, Google and numerous attorneys.

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But should those affected even react to a press inquiry?

One should assess all aspects from a position of legal certainty when dealing with the press in a crisis situation. That sounds easy – and it is, if you work on a concept with those experienced in public relations matters, follow their guidance and avoid subsequent gaffes.

Such a concept includes being able to document and bear witness to the process. Whether common sense is sufficient to draw up this concept or if legal experts are required depends on the potential consequences of an incorrectly answered press inquiry and the related economic damage and loss of reputation that might result thereof.

Attorney Birgit Rosenbaum: “What does a press inquiry actually mean? It is a part of legitimate journalism and should initially be welcomed – although it must be dealt with correctly. The reaction to the press inquiry will have a significant impact on any further reporting and will also redefine the legal position.” A media attorney will inform you promptly which reputational pitfalls are lurking and which legal options are available for saving one’s honor.

It should be assessed whether or not to divulge information and what the overall atmosphere during a discussion with a representative of the press should be. Rosenbaum: “Threats, intimidation, denials, bribes – none of that works and will only make things worse!”

A clever gambit is, for example, is to grant the press representative a personal interview. This gains time as opposed to an immediate phone conversation. Journalists are under severe time pressure and even if it serves to establish the truth, they frequently will not have the time for additional research. By slowing down the flow of information a “hot” story is not being thwarted, but the journalist has to accept the reproach of not having done thorough research if he refuses to accept the interview offer for reasons of lack of time.

In addition to the fight against unlawful media coverage, the law firm of LHR has received nationwide attention as a leading firm in particular through the removal of infringing search results on Google and other search engines while successfully asserting the interest of its clients in numerous proceedings.

Reputationsmanagement-Expertise

LHR partner Dr. Niklas Haberkamm, LLM oec., has made a name for himself by virtue of his extensive experience not only in practice but also as an author. Upon request of the President of the Bundesrat, he has served as an expert advisor to the Austrian government on the topic of “Internet Hate Speech”. His article was published in the official Green Paper “Digital Courage” of the Austrian Federal Council  

Birgit Rosenbaum, founder of the firm and a partner: “By being well-advised and prepared you will remove the threat of the press meeting and thereby optimize the position of your own company or yourself!”

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