True or False: Corporate Counsel is to Social Media Like Oil is to Water

I’ve been searching for something related to public relations that will transcend time and technology and I’ve FINALLY FOUND IT: lawyers’ opinions. Over the years, there has been a polite conflict between corporate public relations professionals and corporate lawyers.

These two friendly adversaries debate whether t0 stay quiet verses almost absolute transparency, which the public craves. The PR people want let the truth be known, the lawyers don’t want to get sued.

I came across an article at titled: “Can Legal, communicators reach accord on social media?” An attorney at Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler, & Hagen listed five things lawyers look for in social media:

1. Use properly attributed content (our PR agency works for a personal injury attorney and on THREE occasions we found other law firms stealing this attorney’s online content, including copying every word from his blog postings).

2. Avoid unfair or deceptive trade practices (At TC Public Relations, we’ve had to tell one legal client that words like “best,” “expert” and bragging about successes could get you successfully busted by the state agencies that regulate attorney marketing. It might also get your Wikipedia listing shut down).

3. Remember the FTC guidelines (basically, if you give something free to a blogger and they review it, they need to disclose it. As a practical matter, if I’m working with an experienced blogger, I’m NEVER going to tell them about ethical guidelines they should already know about. It’s my job to pursue ethical bloggers for our clients).

4. Will you allow feedback, comments or trackbacks? (I believe if you’re blogging you MUST keep the comment option ON. That’s like inviting someone to a party and telling them to have a good time but keep their mouth shut).

5. Have a crisis communications plan in mind (You might recall the YouTube video of the Domino’s Pizza employees spitting in the food and shoving cheese up their nose before putting it on a sandwich. While the legal department can look into filing a suit, there is really very little the law can do to prepare for this, except make social media guidelines clear in the employee manual and hope for the best).

So for those of you who are wondering where’s the PR Laugh is, it’s two sources ( and Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler, & Hagen) cited in this article. Neither had readily available links for me to connect this post with. Hey, I gave them credit, so I’m trying to follow the rules. Now I hope they reach out to me and give me the links.