30 Dec 2015

In-house counsel lack tools to deal with social media meltdowns, survey finds

While the list of public relations and legal woes posed by platforms like Twitter and Facebook only continues to grow, a new survey has found that many legal departments lack the policies and procedures needed to deal with a social media crisis.

Oleksiy Mark

A new survey from PR firm Weber Shandwick and KRC Research has found that a vast majority of in-house legal departments are sitting ducks for a social media crisis. Of the 100 lawyers who participated in the survey, all of which hailed from Fortune Global 1000 companies in the US and the UK, only 20 per cent reported that their teams had a plan in place to deal with a crisis on social media. The low level of preparedness is surprising, given that 91 per cent of respondents believed that a company's reputation was its most valuable asset, while 85 per cent acknowledged that social media has the power to escalate once small PR problems into major crises.

Complex legal risks

From faux pas tweets to serious data breaches, a social media backlash can spread like wildfire and do lasting damage to a company's reputation and public standing. However, beyond the more obvious PR concerns associated with platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, there are complex legal risks associated with social media engagement that need to be on the radar of in-house risk management strategies. Improper sharing of classified information, data breaches, hacking and inflammatory comments made about a company by employees or customers were ranked highest among survey respondents as the most pressing social media threats from a legal risk perspective.

Wake-up call

Effective strategies to deal with social media crises are essential if in-house lawyers are to proactively contribute to strategic planning for crisis and risk management, says Weber Shandwick. 'The research serves as a wake-up call for legal executives to more actively safeguard their companies from legal and reputational threats on social media, no matter where they originate,' says Weber Shandwick executive vice president Peter Duda, co-head of the agency's global crisis group.

According to the agency's report, in-house counsel are advised to 'prepare in peacetime' for a crisis on social media, rather than relying on putting out fires as they are lit. In-house legal executives must familiarise themselves with their company's social media capabilities, policies and crisis management tools, and push for collaboration with management and PR on crisis response plans. Sources: Weber Shandwick; NJ.com

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