It happens. The rumor. The gossip. The office buzz. The phones start ringing. The emails start pinging. All hell breaks loose. SOMETHING is happening in your office. But no one is too sure yet what it is. But the BUZZ will take off and the less information people have, the worse the damage they can cause. Just ask the boys at Sterling, Cooper, Draper and the other guy. The fallout from Lucky Strike’s parent company consolidating all of their lines of business with BBDO continued this week. Word is out on the street and the boys at SCD and the other guy are the last to know. Fast forward 45 years and nothing much has changed when it comes to office gossip, except now, with the Internet, well, rumors fly faster and keeping a lock on information is next to impossible. The entertainment world has TMZ and Perez Hilton … while we, in the legal industry, have Above the Law. I have said it here that you MUST stay in front of your message. You MUST maintain transparency. A recent law firm merger discussion highlights the necessity. An announced rumor last week involved a possible merger between legal powerhouses AmLaw 100 firms Orrick (#25) and Akin Gump (#31). To their credit, a confirmation of the discussions was made. However, the panic had already set in for some of my friends at the firms, and I can only imagine what was going on inside the hallowed hallways. What would a merger mean?? We all know many practice groups and partners do not survive mergers due to client conflicts. What about the redundancies (how many marketing directors does a firm need?)? What about Orrick’s model of on-shoring back office services to their Wheeling, WV campus?? What does that mean to the Akin Gump staff???? Well, I got an email early this morning from an insider that the merger talks are off, to a huge sigh of relief. I even sent it out via my Twitter. I then read about it in the blogs an hour later. I don’t think Orrick and Akin Gump could have moved faster on the news than they did. They are staying out in front of the story. The blogs have been kind. They are, however, forgetting about Twitter. One piece of advice: Twitter is going to get the message, and, perhaps, misinformation, out faster than any blog or press release. I just checked and Orrick’s last Twitter message is from October 1 and it is in regards to a design magazine; Akin Gump did post today, unfortunately, there is nothing about the merger discussions. Nonetheless, the conversations are taking place on Twitter (see search results for Orrick and Akin Gump), but they are being lead by people outside the firm, who might not have the firm’s best interests in mind. And that can lead to PR trouble and a weakening of your message. So let us all learn from this today. Whatever is going on inside your firms is only an e-mail tip away from headlining a blog post. We are only a Tweet away from all hell breaking loose. There is no longer such a thing as embargoing information. No more keeping “need to know” information locked down within a conference room or an executive committee. If it’s going on inside your firm, and is salacious in any sense of the word, it will hit the blogosphere, Twitter and, eventually, the main stream press. So here’s what I suggest:

  • You MUST get in front of the story and STAY in front of the story.
  • You have to simultaneously post that press release, e-mail staff, Tweet out the link, and send it to the press and influential bloggers.
  • And then you must monitor the conversations, respond and redirect when necessary.

Phew. That’s a lot of work. But, getting drunk in your hotel room, hoping it all goes away, won’t help. Just ask Roger Sterling.