4 ways to respond when responding is illegal

Caught in a public relations situation in which your organization is prevented by law to say anything specific? There are options.

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But then one of your clients bashes you in the media, and the client’s story is false.

What should you do? If you respond to the specific charges, you’ll betray your promise of confidentiality and hurt your work with other clients. If you don’t, your organization will be portrayed as clueless, heartless, or downright inept.

That dilemma was on the mind of one reader, who wrote:

“I have encountered dozens of occasions in which an aggrieved party goes to the media upset with how my organization is handling a situation that impacts them. To be blunt, the media is being spun in classic David and Goliath fashion.”

“In responding on behalf of my organization, I follow very strict privacy rules—that state an agency cannot disclose personal information about a customer. My concern is that the story almost always precedes, full of all of the exaggerations and misinformation.

“How does someone like me balance this adherence to confidentiality while protecting themselves from repeated stories that are reputationally [sic] harmful?”

Here are four possible approaches, in order from the safest to the riskiest:

1. Make a statement

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