Over the years, I’ve had dozens of creative ideas quashed by unimaginative attorneys. That’s why the five most dreaded words of communications professionals are “run it by legal first.”
In reality, lawyers really need to start paying a lot more attention to their communications staffs—especially given the exorbitant cost of a social media gaffe.
Progressive is learning that lesson the hard way this week as public furor mounts over a story that the company’s attorneys, hoping to avoid paying a $75,000 claim, helped defend an underinsured driver who killed one of its policyholders in a car crash.
From what I’ve read, it’s unclear how much of the story is true. And Progressive has denied the allegations. But the jury of public opinion—the dual lynch mobs of Twitter and Facebook—has already decided that the company is guilty as charged.
That verdict is likely to cost the insurance giant millions of dollars in lost policyholders and far more in lost brand value. (Rumors are even circulating that Flo will get the ax.)
Note to all companies who haven’t learned yet: Communicators need a seat at the table when making important policy decisions to help weigh the brand and reputational risks. The best crisis communications strategy is one that avoids a crisis.