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Lawyers are a company’s liability watchdogs. So they’re often the first ones to spot issues that could harm the company’s reputation.

But once they’ve spotted an issue, how prepared are they to handle it? To answer that question, we had to go to the source.

In conjunction with KRC Research, Weber Shandwick conducted a survey of 100 senior and mid-level practicing lawyers at Fortune Global 1000 companies in the U.S. and UK. As it turns out, despite 91 percent agreeing that reputation is a critical company asset, many would admit that they’re not doing enough to prepare for when their companies’ reputations are in crisis.

  • More than a third (37 percent) of respondents had no social media crisis communications plan in place.
  • Only 40 percent reported conducting social media crisis preparedness drills. While they may have a plan, they might not be comfortable acting on it.
  • In-house counsel estimated it would take 38 hours to respond to a social media crisis — a lifetime in an always-on world where a single tweet can ignite a media firestorm and send a stock price plunging.
  • Less than half (49 percent) expressed moderate confidence in their company’s response capabilities.

One final stat offers an explanation for nearly all the others: Only 21 percent of in-house counsel said they are “very” involved in planning for social media crises.

If they’re not involved, then naturally they feel less confident. And their company’s preparations are that much less thorough and informed.

So how can in-house attorneys prepare themselves and their employers for the worst?

  1. Get involved in developing corporate social media policies and crisis response plans, to ensure alignment with company policy.
  2. Build confidence in the company’s plan by participating in crisis simulation trainings, such as Weber Shandwick’s firebell.
  3. Work collaboratively with existing crisis teams to update protocols, review response plans and remain vigilant.

It’s easy to underestimate and procrastinate when it comes to social media crisis preparation. So kick off the year with an assessment of your preparedness, and make sure you have the materials, training and relationships in place to set yourself up for success (or at least protect yourself from disaster) in 2017.

Photo credit: Lee Royal

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