Companies across industries could face a fresh round of regulatory scrutiny in the form of new inquiries and enforcement activity with the new Congress and administration.
But it’s crucial to remember that when a government investigation becomes public, it’s not only investigators’ or regulators’ perceptions that matter. Stakeholders are watching, too.
Here are some best practices from FGH experts (recently shared via Bloomberg Law and the Practising Law Institute) for communicating during a government investigation to avoid losing trust, damaging stakeholder relationships or hurting your legal position:
- Plan, plan, plan. A lack of scenario planning, preparation and coordination is the most common cause of communications mistakes when facing investigations. Anticipating issues and having a rapid response protocol in place beforehand is critical to keeping up with the news cycle in a timely, accurate and strategic way.
- Nail the narrative. A company facing regulatory allegations needs a strong, accurate narrative that articulates its position and simplifies complex facts and concepts. Messaging should be adapted to various constituencies and evolve in response to new developments or claims.
- Maintain balance between insulating the company from legal exposure and preserving the company’s reputation by emphasizing, as appropriate, transparency, cooperation, corporate values and remediation.
- Prepare and train executives. Whether in a media or regulator interview or in the Congressional hearing hot seat, top executives should be rigorously trained on messaging and well-practiced in handling tough questions. Conveying credibility, authenticity and transparency from the top can help shape how key audiences react to the company’s position.
- Let stakeholders hear it from you first. Stakeholders expect a position or perspective from a company and don’t just want to read it in the papers. Engaging directly can maintain trust, empower supporters and reassure potential skeptics.