Purpose – Class action litigation has the potential to severely damage the image customers have of a company (brand), often with calamitous consequences for its strategy. Such risks increase when plaintiff's attorneys use all of the instruments of influence to embarrass and persuade large corporations to settle large lawsuits before they ever reach a courtroom. The aim of this paper is to examine this issue. Design/methodology/approach – The paper offers a five‐point plan that organizations can use to pro‐actively defend themselves from aggressive litigants and thus protect their brand. Findings – The paper finds that companies that cede the litigation communication advantage to their adversaries commit a fundamental mistake. They fail to understand the threat they face. Practical implications – Corporations facing class action litigation need to understand that: it is more than a legal fight; and plaintiffs' lawyers count on corporate defendants to act (and communicate) in predictable and often counterproductive ways. Litigation (and all supporting communication) is at its core a battle for the hearts and minds of the stakeholders. It is a simultaneous public relations and political war being waged against the defendant company. Originality/value – The paper shows how organizations can defend their reputation in litigation by: understanding the context of the fight; identifying the likely assault; pre‐empting their adversary; and communicating forcefully.
Strategy & Leadership – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 9, 2008
Keywords: Corporate communications; Litigation; Public relations
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