Chapter 7: The Law
Chapter 7 discusses an area of increasing importance in public relations—the legal
implications of the profession.
Public relations professionals and lawyers have always approached each other
with caution. Fundamentally, the two practices have built-in conflicts; lawyers preferring
silence to public relations professionals preferring disclosure.
But the times, as Bob Dylan said, are a-changin'.
Lawyers today advertise, appear frequently on cable television, and hire public
relations counselors. The historic O. J. Simpson murder trial showcased a trio of
attorneys—Johnnie Cochran, Barry Scheck, and Robert Shapiro—who cultivated press
coverage to help spring their client. Shapiro’s advice is referenced as a “Sidebar” in the
From that beginning emerged Court TV and all the lawyers preening on the cable
That public relations counsel has become as important as legal counsel, in our
communications-oriented society, is indisputable. Students must understand that a savvy
corporate executive will always seek public relations advice with legal advice before
making a decision. An “unsavvy” CEO (see Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Martha Stewart, et
al) won’t consult public relations advisors. Conversely, it is the responsibility of the
public relations professional to ensure that the CEO gets wise communications advice.
This chapter, in addition to exploring the relationship between public relations
professionals and lawyers, also examines such concerns as insider trading, disclosure law,
defamation law, Internet law, copyright law, and a host of other legally-oriented issues
that bear importantly on the public relations practitioner today.
Subject of the “Voice of Authority” interview in Chapter 7 is John Kramer, the
public relations vice president for the Institute for Justice, which is the subject of the
chapter end case on the thorny issue of eminent domain.
Among topics discussed in Chapter 7 are:
Public relations and the law: An uneasy alliance.
Public relations and the First Amendment.
Public relations and defamation law.
Public relations and insider trading.
Public relations and disclosure law.
Public relations and ethics law.
Public relations and copyright law.