Why do Comms and Legal need to speak?

What you say, how you say it and who you say it to matters more in 2024 than it has in any other year, and that is not necessarily because communication has become more highly prized or important.

Priscilla Pollara on 19/02/24

The reason lies in two areas: the undeniable constant need to navigate competition creatively and ruthlessly, and second, the instantaneous ease with which reputations can be made, broken and skewed in the commercial world.

The powerhouse of a relationship that could exist between Communications and Legal presents an outstanding opportunity for firms to swerve such dangers, and all the while enhance its renown towards a truly competitive edge. But does that relationship exist, or rather, do firms that are aware of the risks and pitfalls take the chance to nurture this potentially winning connection?

‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
George Bernard Shaw

A Better Relationship?

In a world where we are all communicating with each other on multiple platforms from the moment we wake, it is extraordinary that efforts are being put in place by efficient HR teams to bring the world of PR and Legal together, even when they exist under the same roof. We are hyper connected, but some of us are not talking.

What are the reasons? Lawyers never say yes, is one accusation that is commonly bandied about, and then those in PR and Comms, often known as the department that are 'paid to brag', can often be blamed for not understanding their parameters and overstepping the mark without giving a thought to the consequences. If truth be told, no one side takes the blame, but the onus is on both to understand each other's roles and to use the positives from them to bolster the ultimate message.

But what are the missed opportunities?

Ten a plenty if you consider the collaborative genius that could emanate from a brainstorming set of voices that use each other's expertise as a means to get ahead of the pack. Do too many cooks spoil the broth? In a kitchen, possibly yes, but in a firm that needs to staunchly defend and be energetically creative, the coming together of a strong and united front is mighty. 

Today's Problems

Backing the Wrong Cause

If you've heard of social washing, you are doing better than most (unless you have fallen victim to it), because it is relatively new terminology for a relatively new phenomenon.

These days, to score points, outsmart competition, appeal to new audiences overnight and to simply seem trendy, companies globally can make the fatal error of backing causes that are wholly random to their core ethos. You can guess what happens next, but let's say their loyal customer base begins to question and slip away. This misstep happens more often than it should.

The reasons behind it - and the temptation, too - are obvious to even the most scathing of critics. But could this be stopped? Sometimes change, radical shifts and a betrayal of what went before is not healthy, however clever or innovative the idea, but the pooling together of as many voices within a firm - from those who seek forward advancement to those who are traditionally stuck in the mud - is always the most constructive solution.

Lack of Control

Everyone will agree how crucial it is to retain an iron clad reputation. It is of course never that easy. This is a world in which just a scattering of careless, misunderstood words committed publicly on social media can land anyone in trouble, and it is therefore important to concede that the efforts put towards establishing a core message - by a comms team or otherwise - is at constant external risk.

A united front will go a long way to counteract this - everyone should be successfully avoiding the bollards that present themselves as hurdles together. As a side note - consider how a lot of businesses are over reliant on outsourced forms of PR. This is a tried and tested procedure for many, but we are all aware that this way of working is only functional should the communication lines be fully open, because if the word 'outsource' comes to define that relationship, not only are reins lost, but so is the message. Communication is so much more important than anyone realises - should it be handed over so lightly?


When a company does land itself in hot water, it isn't just the team or person at fault that has to deal with the consequences, because it is always a problem for the entire company. If they take the correct routes, a business that is humbled will be a business that needs to apologise, show humility, think again and start again. It has been proven time and time again that a commercial 'convalescence' period is always shorter and more manageable when a connected Comms department (ideas) and Legal (rules) come together.

The Future

AI will not be a future threat to the way we work, because, frankly, it has already arrived. Love or loathe it, what is AI really? Most see it as a convenience, but for some time yet, for others, this convenience poses a threat. Will it eventually usurp our best thoughts? Will thinking deeply cease to be a key marker in innovation and intelligence, and will we simply not need authors by 2050? And on the worries go. Can we stop the advancement of AI? No. Do you appreciate quite how much control it removes from you when it attempts to imitate you and your passion? Possibly. Would you rather retain control? I'm sure you'll say yes. 

With such a threat on our doorsteps, there is an opportunity to see this transformative technology as a spur to remember the brilliance that is created when great human minds come together. For now, the flaws in the tech mean that we remain superior: take advantage.

The director Woody Allen once said that '80% of success is just showing up', and if it is to be believed, a close relationship between the idea factory of Comms, and the parameter driven Legal surely could mean that the last 20% would be up for grabs. It's time to find out. 

Priscilla Pollara

Related content