85 Percent of US and UK Lawyers at Fortune 1000 Companies Believe Social Media Has Potential to Spur Minor Problem Into Major Crisis 

NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 18, 2015 – Research released today from leading global communications and engagement firm Weber Shandwick finds that the majority of in-house lawyers in the US and UK believe reputation to be their company’s most valuable asset (91 percent) and that social media has greatly increased the potential for a minor problem to turn into a major crisis (85 percent). But despite the value they place in their reputation and concerns about risks posed by social media, most lawyers think they are immune from social media crises that will cause legal risk, and their departments are not heavily involved in planning for social crisis mitigation and response.

Weber Shandwick Research Finds Companies with Strong Reputations Have Twice as Many Women in Senior Management

“The research serves as a wake-up call for legal executives to more actively safeguard their companies from legal and reputational threats on social media, no matter where they originate,” said Peter Duda, co-head of Global Crisis and Issues at Weber Shandwick. “With persistent instances of digital vulnerability transpiring globally, determining the needs and preparedness of corporate counsel is crucial to successful reputation management.”


Weber Shandwick partnered with KRC Research to conduct Social Media’s Role in Crisis Management: A Call for Greater Legal Vigilance, a survey of 100 senior and mid-level lawyers who work as in-house counsel for Fortune Global 1000 companies. We surveyed 50 lawyers in the U.S. and 50 in the U.K. who are personally involved in advising their companies on matters related to risk, reputation management or brand protection.


In-House Counsel Have Limited Experience With and Training in Social Media Crises. Only 21 percent of lawyers report that their company has experienced a social media crisis during their tenure. Of those who have experienced a crisis, the leading consequences have been internal, including declines in employee morale and attrition or layoffs. In-house counsel is not widely trained on social media, with only half (54 percent) of lawyers having received instruction on how social media impacts their company.


Most Legal Departments Are Not Very Involved in Planning For Social Media Crises. Although a majority of in-house counsel say their department is involved in planning for social media crises, only 21 percent report they are “very” involved. Lawyers also report spending very little of their own time preparing for digitally-related crises. On average, in-house counsel devoted 2.4 percent of their own time in the last year to social crisis planning, and almost half (47 percent) did not spend any time at all preparing.

Our research suggests that in-house lawyers are underestimating an important area of risk. Social media has its own set of challenges, and legal counsel should ask themselves if they’re ready to address what can be powerful threats to reputation.

Rod ClaytonX

Co-head of Global Crisis and Issues at Weber Shandwick

In-House Counsel Lack Confidence In Their Companies’ Social Crisis Responsiveness. No more than half of survey respondents believe their company would be “excellent” (9 percent) or “very good” (40 percent) at managing a social media crisis. The average time lawyers expect it will take their companies to activate a social crisis plan is 38 hours. A lack of response within 24 hours, and even faster in especially sensitive situations, leaves corporate reputations vulnerable to enduring damage.


Rating of Company’s Ability to Manage Social Media Crisis Total Lawyers US Lawyers UK Lawyers
Excellent 9% 4% 14%
Very Good 40 48 32
Good 39 32 46
Fair 11 16 6
Poor 1 0 2


Despite Concerns, In-House Counsel Have a False Sense of Security About Imminent Online Threats. One reason why in-house counsel may not be fully preparing for a social media crisis is that they do not feel threatened. Nine in 10 lawyers (90 percent) say it is not likely that their company will experience a social media crisis that will cause a legal risk in the next year.


In-House Counsel Face Challenges Along Multiple Stages of the Social Media Crisis Journey. A number of enduring themes, present throughout a crisis journey, emerged when those who have experienced a social media crisis were asked to describe in their own words what is most difficult about managing the issue. These themes include assessing the situation early on and gauging response effectiveness, the fast speed at which crises move online, and complications arising from internal and external pressures, which include the need for disparate teams to come together and coordinate how to manage the crisis.


Recommendations for Effectively Engaging in Social Media Crisis Management. The report offers guidelines for in-house counsel to more effectively engage in social media crisis preparation and response in order to safeguard corporate reputations from digital attacks. These include becoming familiar with a firm’s social media capabilities, preparing before a crisis hits and continuously reviewing and adjusting crisis plans.


Click here to find out more about Social Media’s Role in Crisis Management: A Call for Greater Legal Vigilance.

About Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is a leading global communications and engagement firm in 75 cities across 34 countries and operations extending to 123 cities in 81 countries. The firm’s diverse team of strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work, including being honored as an Ad Age A-List Agency in 2014 and 2015, The Holmes Report’s Global Agency of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and PRWeek’s 2015 Global Agency of the Year. Weber Shandwick and its Prime unit have won a combined 25 Cannes Lions since 2009. Weber Shandwick was also named a Best Place to Work by Ad Age in 2014 and 2015 and PRWeek in 2013 and 2014. The firm deploys deep expertise across sectors and specialty areas, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management, using proprietary social, digital and analytics methodologies. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit https://www.webershandwick.com/.


About KRC Research

KRC Research is a full-service market research firm that specializes in the kind of research needed for effective communications—communications that reach, engage and persuade. A unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, KRC Research has worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them. Staffed with market research professionals from the worlds of political campaigns, consumer marketing, journalism and academia, we are flexible, practical, creative, knowledgeable and fast, combining sophisticated research tools with real-world communications experience. For more information, visit www.krcresearch.com.