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Corporate Crisis Management: YBO Advocates Synergy between Legal and Communications Experts

Finding the nexus between communications and Legal solutions in the face of corporate crisis was the fulcrum of discussion by a four-man panel of legal and communications experts at a one day workshop in Lagos last week Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
The workshop, attended by heads of legal and corporate affairs departments of various corporate organizations, commercial lawyers, dispute resolution and intellectual property experts, was organised by the Jackson, Etti & Edu Law chambers.
 
Themed, “Dispute Resolution and Crisis Management of Corporate Entities– Wearing the best suit”, the forum had presentations submitted by communications experts and legal luminaries. Barr. Asamah Kadiri, partner, Jackson, Etti & Edu spoke on the topic ‘Managing Complex Commercial Litigation of a Corporate Organisation’, while Barr. Obafemi Agaba of same chambers presented second lead paper on the topic ‘Managing the Risk of Litigation, Policy, Cost, and Value Consideration’.
 
Earlier in his keynote address titled: Crisis Management in a Corporate Organisation, Mr. Ayo Shote, Managing Director – Baker Hughes Nigeria, had emphasised various issues from administrative and legal boundaries that complicate rather than solving corporate crisis.
 
Examining and analyzing the various presentations and keynote topic, a four man panel made up of communications and legal experts, proffered professional solutions to the issues, synergizing on common fronts. The panelists, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, CEO, CMC Connect Burson-Marsteller, Sola Dosunmu, Head, Corporate & Regulatory, British American Tobacco; Bode Sojobi, Head, Legal Services – CHI Ltd; and Imomoemi Ibisiki, Group Head, Legal Services, Heritage Bank Ltd, were very cerebral and detailed in their submissions.
 
Citing various case studies and pragmatic experiences, Badejo-Okusanya posited that communications expert and legal practitioners usually disagree owing to differences in perspective and ideology. Communications expert, he says, conceive litigation matters from issues/reputation management perspective whilst legal practitioners see it through the eyes of the law thus creating a dichotomy.
 
Badejo-Okusanya stressed the need for a collaborative than competitive approach in the best interest of the client. There should be collaborative relationship on issues bordering on litigation communications, joint handling and analysis of briefs, and execution of same.
 
He further outlined the critical five stages in crisis management citing his organisation’s experience with the defunct BellView Airlines when the airline was embroiled in air crash crisis, and how CMC Connect was able to manage the public outcry and the airline was back in business at that period.
 
He expounded on the various service offerings of his firms that offer solutions to corporate organisations ancillary needs and as well as subsidiaries like I-Octane (Interactive Media), Tangalo Africa (Agricultural Communications), Ignite Public Affairs.
 
He also spoke about his firm’s work with BAT, stressing the need for organisations and corporate entities to work with professional communications consultants as official information handlers in times of crisis. Doing that, he says, will make it easier to achieve corporate goals and subsequently a greater share of voice in public and dousing the voice of rumours and negative publicity. He opined that proper crisis communications management could save corporate and brand reputation and bring out the silver lining in every crisis.
 
Finally, he spoke about the changing face of information dissemination stressing that with the advent of social media tools (eg. CNN’s i-report), the customary gate keeping functions of traditional media has been bypassed. Hence organisations and corporate entities must partner with communications agencies and experts to save their corporate reputation from unforeseen damages that could have very grave effects on corporate bottom line.