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Legal Consultant Limelight: Kelsey Eidbo

Infinite Global’s excellent reputation in the area of media relations and crisis communications is thanks in no small part to Kelsey Eidbo. The San Francisco-based senior client supervisor manages several of the firm’s accounts and also leads its intake and development process for producing “crisis communications playbooks” – so that clients are prepared when a data breach or other problematic incident arises. Eidbo enjoys the challenges of the evolving nature of her consultancy role and notes that law firms have come to understand the benefits of investing in communications strategies upfront. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Chico.

Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers what your position is at Infinite Global?

Kelsey Eidbo: My role at Infinite Global is to help professional services firms develop public relations programs that support their short- and long-term business development goals and to lead account teams that execute against these plans. I am also a part of Infinite Global’s Crisis Communications and Data Breach group, where I assist in advising firms on their communication strategy in response to crises and proactively develop crisis communications playbooks for firms that want to get ahead of potential incidents.

LD: What do you find rewarding about your mix of responsibilities?

KE: I really enjoy the intake process and subsequent plan development with new clients, when we’re doing a deep dive to understand who the firm is, the various personalities involved, and what the firm’s goals are so we can develop an effective plan. Matching our media experience with the unique backgrounds of the lawyers we’re sitting down with produces really interesting stories and can bring fresh approaches to stories that have already been told.

LD: Are there any trends you are seeing in media relations or crisis communications?

KE: I’d say there are three major trends that continue to keep us busy and are changing the way we work with and advise clients.

The first is that most law firms are thinking beyond standard media relations to stand out in a competitive marketplace and crowded media landscape. Clients are developing infographics, videos and podcasts for their own websites and are excited about finding ways to repurpose those and extend their reach.

Another is that more and more law firms are understanding the importance of preparing for a crisis well before it hits. At this point, there are too many headlines about their competitors, industry giants and household names facing crises, and law firms are realizing there is no excuse to not be prepared. Knowing who will be involved in crisis response, what types of threats you are most vulnerable to, and having a brief, standardized and tested approval process will help expedite crisis response and take part of the guess work out when you’re in the midst of an incident. We also recommend our clients have pre-approved media and communications policies and statements, so these are ready to go when a client or member of the media reaches out mid-crisis.

Finally, the increased occurrence of data breaches continues to impact every aspect of our work. Clients are coming out with more innovative and interesting practice groups and service lines to help their clients prepare for and respond to data breaches and turn to us to help set them apart in an increasingly crowded industry. Of the crisis communications work we’re doing, the majority of the proactive work tends to focus on preparing law firms to communicate around data breaches, and we are frequently brought in to help with communications if one of their clients experiences a breach.

LD: Can you describe a recent matter that you’ve handled?

KE: A good portion of our crisis work recently has focused on preparing law firms and other professional service providers for crises through crisis communications playbooks. We’ve been working with firms of every size to develop these plans from scratch or to create a plan that supplements their incident response plans. Often times they will focus solely on data breaches, but others want to prepare for incidents that range from natural disasters, to data breaches, to accusations of sexual harassment.

LD: What are some challenges in the playbook-development process?

KE: The goal of these playbooks is to ensure that in the event of a crisis, everyone knows their role, approval processes are already understood, and the firm can map out its potential response when it’s not in the midst of an incident. This process can introduce a few challenges: Navigating internal politics and getting everyone to agree on the roles within their response team, mapping out internal and external audiences and determining where each fall within the response. One hurdle that can come up in crisis response is balancing the preferences of various stakeholders in how we are updating audiences – those that have closer relationships with clients may want to say more, though overall, legal counsel tend to want to stay quiet. Identifying these preferences before a crisis hits and understanding the personalities involved in crisis response helps overcome this hurdle and really underscores the importance of planning ahead.

LD: What advice would you give potential clients in terms of how to most productively work with an outside advisor?

KE: It helps us do a better job as outside advisors if our team is looked at as an extension of theirs and we are looped in early in the planning process. Our job is to provide thoughtful, strategic advice on how to relay your news to the media and other stakeholders, and the sooner we’re brought in and the more information we’re provided, the better we can do that job.

LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?

KE: I like to go to various workout classes around San Francisco – my favorites right now are spinning, yoga and Pilates – and exploring the city’s many trails and parks. I also enjoy heading up to wine country and taking advantage of San Francisco’s great restaurant options.