“Can Communications and Legal Get Along? Examining Tensions and Cooperation between Legal Counsel and Communication Practitioners”
(Co-sponsored with Law & Policy Division)
By Matt Ragas, DePaul University, and Alexander Laskin, Quinnipiac University
This panel is scheduled from 10:00-11:30am on Wednesday, August 9. This PF&R panel will focus on recent issues, developments and interactions involving communication and legal professionals in a corporate context. It will bring together experts from academe and the industry, who will discuss the benefits of transparent communication within legal and regulatory constraints and protections.
Specifically, this discussion will provide an overview of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) regulations that affect when and how stakeholders can communicate content about their organizations on professional and personal social media accounts. Many internal stakeholders also have access to sensitive and proprietary information about an organization, and their use of that information on social media can have major reputational impact. Managing such communications is a struggle for organizations, and represents a tension between PR practitioners and legal departments.
The panel will kick off with introductory remarks from two senior practitioners that have encountered such challenges and tensions, Susan Fleming, senior vice president of Marketing for OptumRx, and Kirtsten Hines, deputy general counsel, OptumRx. OptumRx is a fast-growing unit of Optum, a health services and innovation company owned by UnitedHealth Group, which ranks sixth on the FORTUNE 500. Susan and Kirsten will discuss their roles and responsibilities, how their two functions collaborate and address possible tensions. They will share key learnings relevant to professionals and academics.
Gone is the day when a cease-and-desist letter was quietly filed in a desk drawer and met with compliance. Now a cease-and-desist letter over trademark or copyright infringement is posted on social media as fodder for a David vs. Goliath battle. Courtney Barclay, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Jacksonville University, will discuss why consulting with public relations professionals to understand the public risks associated with these types of legal actions is a must to prevent an unwanted social media backlash.
Cayce Myers, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech University, will discuss internal stakeholders, including employees who often have the greatest affect on an organization’s image. Because the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recent decisions have made it more difficult for an employer to control what their employees say online, it is important for organizations to establish well defined social media policies that comply with legal standards while also serving the needs of the organization. Sometimes this represents a clash of values between PR and legal departments. The question is how to strike the right balance between organizational engagement with stakeholders and controlling social media use?
Publicly traded companies are overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) and must follow key regulations, such as Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD). Investor relations (IR) is an area undergoing transformation around corporate disclosure and communications practices, particularly regarding the use of recognized social media channels. Matt Ragas, Ph.D., Associate Professor at DePaul University, will discuss recent developments around corporate disclosure and transparency, trends within investor relations, and the relationship between IR, the general counsel and the C-suite.
The panel will be moderated by Alexander Laskin, Ph.D., Professor of Strategic Communication at Quinnipiac University.