When Over-Lawyering Makes Bad News Worse

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    [The following is an excerpt from a guest contribution by Silicon Valley-based writer Leslie Kelsay, who explains why crisis communications pros need to take a stand in regards to attorneys over-lawyering messaging when a simple explanation is best.]

    We get it: Corporate counsel’s job is to protect the organization from risk. But crisis communicators often must exert authority on clear messaging with attorneys who would sacrifice clarity hoping to minimize future legal or financial risk, even when they don’t have to.

    Take Nabisco parent company Mondelez when limited batches of Chewy Chips Ahoy! were recalled in April 2019.

    Mondelez’s press release said the recall was because of “an unexpected solidified ingredient.” They indicated “some reports of potential adverse health effects have been received.”

    What was a cookie consumer to think? The worst, that’s what.

    Rat droppings? Globs of grease from the machine that forms the dough? Blobs of curdled milk?

    Somewhere in the communications approval chain was an attorney or two who wanted to tamp down the potential economic value of existing claims and limit the number of potentially false claims.

    But the murky language raised more headlines and consumer concerns than the recall itself.

    What was the “unexpected solidified ingredient”?

    Cornstarch.

    To continue with the rest of Leslie Kelsay’s article, click here.