Who Will Save Your Reputation? Lawyer vs. Public Relations

Knowing who to call when a negative story breaks can be challenging. Do you contact a lawyer or turn to a public relations (PR) specialist?

Your reputation depends on various factors, including the nature of the story, the potential legal implications, and the client’s objectives.

In the “World Wide Privacy Tour” episode of the adult animated series “South Park,” the show takes aim at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle without using their names. According to reports, the Duchess of Sussex felt “upset and overwhelmed” by the episode, described as a particularly “brutal” takedown by some viewers.

Episode Overview:

  • The characters depicted are a red-headed prince and his wife, who wears an outfit that is noticeably similar to one Markle has worn in the past.
  • The episode shows the couple moving to South Park, looking into hiring a branding manager, and embarking on a “we want privacy” tour.
  • The prince character promotes a book titled “Waaaagh,” which appears to reference Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” published in January.
  • The episode ends with the Harry character turning his back on the “privacy” tour while the Markle character remains.

You can imagine why rumours spread that minor royals were less than chuffed. Suppose Meghan had decided to sue South Park for defamation or invasion of privacy? In that case, it may have created more negative publicity and attention to the controversial episode and the royal couple themselves. The legal battle would have resulted in a protracted dispute.

Suing a show known for its provocative and controversial content may have further damaged Meghan’s public image and could have been seen as an attempt to stifle creative freedom. It may have also led to accusations of being thin-skinned or overly sensitive, which could have undermined her reputation and credibility.

Moreover, a lawsuit could have had financial implications for both parties, with legal fees potentially adding to significant amounts. In the end, the negative impact of a case may have outweighed any potential benefits, and it may have been more effective for Meghan and her team to address the issue through other means, such as a public statement or media campaign.

Step 1: Take Stock

The recent South Park episode mocking Prince Harry and Meghan Markle provides a relevant example of a bad story that may require careful consideration from both legal and PR perspectives. While the show’s disclaimer suggests that the characters are entirely fictional, the couple’s depiction will likely have caused reputational damage. As a marketing communications professional, your first step would be to assess the situation, including the potential impact on the client’s brand and reputation.

Step 2: Identify the Legal Implications

Sometimes, a bad story may have legal implications, and legal advice can help. In the case of the South Park episode, there may be concerns about defamation, invasion of privacy, or other legal issues. A lawyer can advise on the legal implications of the story and any potential courses of action.

Step 3: Develop a PR Strategy

While a lawyer can advise on the legal implications, a PR specialist can develop a strategy to address the long-term reputational impact of a bad story.

In the case of the South Park episode, resisting the temptation to rise to the bait is worthy of consideration. Other PR specialists may recommend issuing a statement, responding on social media, or engaging with media outlets to provide a counter-narrative. This response may fan the flames. The goal would be to mitigate reputational damage and ensure the client’s brand remains intact.

Step 4: Consider Both Legal and PR Perspectives

Sometimes, a bad story may require a combination of legal and PR strategies to address the situation effectively. It is essential to consider both perspectives when developing a response. For example, a PR specialist may recommend a carefully worded statement to avoid any potential legal issues.

Step 5: Work Together

Ultimately, working together as a team is the key to managing a bad story effectively. Lawyers and PR specialists can provide valuable insights and guidance. Understand each team member’s role and work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive response to any bad story beyond your control.

In summary, while hiring a lawyer to deal with bad publicity may be tempting, a PR consultant may be a better choice in many situations. A PR consultant can help you shape your narrative and control the message while advising you on how to respond to negative press to help you come out on top. In the case of the South Park episode mocking Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a PR consultant could help to navigate the negative publicity and present a more positive image. Ultimately, when managing your reputation, it’s essential to have a strategic and thoughtful approach, and a PR consultant can provide the expertise you need to achieve your goals.