EDITORIAL: Extension of the attorney-client privilege is a resounding judgment for every PR counselor

The term "in the court of public opinion" is a clich?, but the ruling last week by a US District judge on extending attorney-client privilege to PR counsel gave it fresh meaning. In his decision, Judge Lewis Kaplan maintained that an attorney's function could be "undermined seriously" were he or she unable to engage in open conversations and discuss strategy with PR counsel.

The term "in the court of public opinion" is a clich?, but the ruling last week by a US District judge on extending attorney-client privilege to PR counsel gave it fresh meaning. In his decision, Judge Lewis Kaplan maintained that an attorney's function could be "undermined seriously" were he or she unable to engage in open conversations and discuss strategy with PR counsel.

Clearly this is a victory for the PR profession, recognizing not only that media and public opinion play a role in how a court case will play out, but also that PR practitioners play a key role in the legal domain. It is also gratifying that attorneys and PR counselors are perceived, in this context, as working together for the good of the client. The relationship has frequently been depicted as antagonistic. Lawyers are often perceived as relatively unsophisticated about the media, while communicators are viewed as relentlessly seeking coverage, not necessarily thinking about how to curtail it (the latter, which we know, is often the case). With the number of litigation practices that exist in PR firms, and the success of many existing in-house counsel-PR department relationships, one would hope that the image of cross-purposes would diminish. What is needed to minimize this, and what is toughest to find given the nature of the work, are case studies that illustrate the impact of a savvy legal strategy that includes a strong communications plan. A conference shouldn't be a passive event Moderators, speakers, and panelists prepare presentations in advance of a conference in order to maximize the experience and give those attending something meaningful to take away - we hope so, anyway. It would be nice to see more attendees make a similar investment and think about what they want to gain from the experience before grabbing their nametag and packet of materials. Attending a conference is not cheap, and in these impecunious times it is wise to evaluate the ROI of doing so. But it is a mistake to assume that the value of a conference is based entirely on the quality of the speakers, or on the networking between sessions. One can parade any number of big and interesting names in front of an audience and hoard hundreds of business cards. The really smart conference participant will draw up a list of burning questions they want to pose, and then make it their business to get the answers. In the interest of full disclosure, this subject comes to mind right now as we prepare for our own Marketing and the Power of PR conference on Wednesday, June 18, which is produced in association with Biz360. And in the interest of shameless promotion, we have assembled a truly outstanding lineup of marketing and PR executives from a range of major brands to speak about their marketing mix. It would be a shame to waste this opportunity for a real dialogue, especially when so many in PR are asking each other - and us - the kinds of questions that these panels are best able to answer.
  • To register for the conference, or for more details, call (646) 638-6021, or log on to www.prweek.com and click on "Events" and then "Conferences."

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