The premise of this blog, Duets, suggests a certain harmony results when law and marketing play together. Is the same true for the law and public relations, a discipline that is part marketing and part business management? 

It brings to mind vintage perceptions of lawyers providing counsel as media swarm people exiting a courthouse. Classic Perry Mason, the attorney and client dismiss the reporters with the familiar, “No comment.” 

This simple statement technically says nothing but really says everything. 

With that perspective, some might think that attorneys and public relations practitioners are at odds. The legal point of view: Say as little as possible. The PR recommendation: Communicate openly and frequently with everyone in every possible way.

At the heart of public relations, it’s about building trust through action and communication. What an organization or person does and how much is or isn’t said as well as the sincerity, context and credibility of the messenger all contribute to the perception of truth and reputation.

On one level it’s simple: say what you mean and do what you say. Yet we know it’s far more challenging than that, especially today with an overwhelming number of online and offline connections. 

Today, it’s not just relationships between people, but relationships with brands and with ideas. Amazon’s Kindle has tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and even community initiatives such as have nearly 7,000 fans on Facebook

Heck, I have enough trouble communicating and showing my interest and concern for the people I care about without worrying about the followers of my company and its brand on Twitter! Yet, I do – in business, we have to — take these brand relationships seriously and work to nurture trust and mutually beneficial interactions. 

It would be easy to say “no comment” or simply post nothing, yet there is an expectation and obligation to act and communicate. What did commentary by Bernie Madoff or Michael Jackson make you think? How did it impact your perceptions of them, their businesses and industries?

As we build and represent brands, there is an increasing need to protect these brands – legally via trademarks and copyright – and equally important, an increasing need to build brand trust through communication. That’s the potentially beautiful duet that can play when legal and PR counsel work in harmony to comment or not to comment as the situation dictates.

Rose McKinney, Risdall McKinney Public Relations