London 2012: managing disruption

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The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will undoubtedly be a publicity boon for London commerce. However, when the eyes of the world are watching, you want to make sure that they see your best side. The following hints and tips will help your business prepare for any potential bad publicity that might conceivably arise whilst your brand is under the spotlight this summer.

Select your first team

Your "crisis management" team should include your in-house counsel, senior decision-makers, and your marketing team. Think about the practicalities. Are people going to be on holiday at key times? Does your CEO live far from the main centre of the business? It can also be worthwhile identifying the appropriate contacts at your external advisers, who are suitably placed to advise on crisis management issues.

Go on the "B" of the Bang

If you become aware of potentially high profile disruption to your business, it is critical to act fast. Often more damage is caused to brands by an ineffective and slow response to a crisis than the crisis itself. This is one area of a business where seeking legal advice early can add significant value and save money, time and stress in the long-run.

Choose the right lane

Adopting the appropriate response strategy is also key. For example, if you are concerned about potential protest action, it might be appropriate to seek a pre-emptive injunction. In the right circumstances it may be quicker, easier and cheaper to obtain an injunction before a protest has begun, rather than trying to restrain unlawful activity once a protest is in full swing. In other circumstances, however, this may not be appropriate - or even possible - and your better option may be to take control of the situation through other means.

Learn your national anthem

If you find yourself in the spotlight, you need to know what to say! The dreaded "no comment" press release while people are trying to work out what is going on can do more harm than good, and can increase speculation unnecessarily.

Instead, prepare a broad press release that can be quickly adapted and released. Statements such as "We are aware of the issue. A more detailed announcement will be made in due course once our initial investigations have been concluded" indicates that you are handling the situation without providing any premature information. This statement can direct queries to the appropriate member of your crisis management team so communications are being funnelled through appropriate channels.

Clear all the hurdles

Monitor the internet and social media. This is often where bad publicity first surfaces, and it can be hard to control. Pre-emptive actions restraining the publication of information can only be obtained when the information in question remains largely confidential. Identify the people in your business who are familiar with social media as a communication tool.

Also try to pre-empt where the story will go. Relatively minor and inconsequential problems can easily escalate into disproportionate and unjustified allegations of mis-management, or speculation over compensation. If these risks are identified quickly, it will help you keep on top of events.

BLP perspective

Bad publicity can be very hard to control, and all the more so during a high profile event such as London 2012. A rapid response is key, but it must also be carefully considered and well managed in order to avoid exacerbating the situation. Injunctive action in particular can be extremely effective, but only in appropriate circumstances, and only with the advice and capabilities of an experienced, well managed team.

BLP’s Olympic Heptathlon

This article is the fifth in a 7-part "heptathlon" series, in which our lawyers are sharing their views on the commercial and legal impact of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The previous article in this series came from our Real Estate team; on the temporary changes to the Sunday trading laws.

In the next article, the Tax team will look at the specific statutory exemption from UK tax legislation for athletes.

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