Mechanics liens aren’t cool or fun, but they’re certainly powerful. And sometimes, a lien is even newsworthy. Whether liens are on a high profile project, are being fraudulently filed after a disaster, or because they’re against a celebrity or sports organization, we see liens on the news cycle at least a few times a month. Sometimes they even last a little longer in the news – like the liens against Donald Trump. With all of this press coverage on mechanics liens, the news outlets must get their information and interviews from somewhere, right?
Recently, one of our customers was having a payment issue on one of these newsworthy-type of projects. They asked us what we thought about talking to the press about their issue. Here are some pros and con
Pros and Cons of Your Construction Payment Dispute Making the News
Before digging too far into the pros and cons of a newsworthy lien, we should note that mechanics liens speak for themselves, regardless of any news coverage. A mechanics lien is the construction industry’s most powerful tool for payment. Period. Every state has laws to guide construction payment, so playing the PR game is probably not necessary. However, bringing attention to your lien could work as a tool when done correctly. When done incorrectly, however, it could negatively affect relationships and actually damage your ability to get paid.
This seemed like a good candidate for a good old-fashioned “Pros and Cons” list. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, so let’s start with the “Pros.” Afterwards, we’ll provide a few tips for handling a newsworthy dispute.
Pros of PR:
- External Pressure Could Push for Payment.
You’ve heard it before: “All press is good press!” But when it comes to someone that’s delinquent on making payment, this is simply not true. No owner, GC, or developer wants their name in the news associated with payment problems. By making the payment issues more widely known, parties up-the-chain from you will feel extra pressure to clean up payment issues on the project, which could lead to speedier payment.
- Payment Problems on Big Projects Take Away Momentum, Mystique.
Big projects carry a lot of clout. Whether it’s because of a big name company is involved, because the project is innovative or iconic, or simply because jobs are being created, big projects often benefit from public support. However, when reports start coming out that share the project in a different, more negative light, that support can wane. Those in charge of the project will want to clear up problems quickly and restore the goodwill that a project has built up.
- An Owner or Other Party Responsible for Payment Problems May Have to Address the Issue.
When a story comes out discussing payment issues on a project, it’s a natural reaction to want to provide the other side of the story. Thus, an owner (or other party responsible) may want to get out in the press and address the payment problem. Could this backfire? Absolutely. We’ll discuss that more in the Cons section, below. But there are benefits – when an owner must get in front of the issue and play damage control, people will take notice. If promises or overtures are made that the dispute will be resolved, that’s just a little more ammunition to help you get paid.
Cons of PR:
- Relationships Could be Negatively Affected.
As we discussed in a post just yesterday, maintaining relationships during payment disputes is challenging – but not impossible! One way that press on a payment dispute could backfire is by damaging the relationships on the project. Sure, the relationship is probably already strained because of the nonpayment situation. But airing out a relationship’s dirty laundry will always carry with it the potential for dire consequences. Plus, this is a step beyond merely sending notices – notices are required and must be sent merely to secure rights. Taking to the press may be seen as (and probably is) an adversarial step. This is not to say that your dispute being in the news is necessarily a bad idea – just that relationships should be taken into consideration before any steps are made to publicize the dispute. We’ll have some relationship tips later on in the post.
- Your Own Issues Could be Exacerbated.
If you’re reading this, you probably think of yourself as the good guy – it’s human nature! But the fact of the matter is that even when you’re on the wrong end of a payment of a payment dispute, you may have some issues of your own. Maybe one of your subs or suppliers went unpaid, maybe you’ve had bad payment disputes in the past, and maybe none of that was even your fault. However, by bringing the project into the limelight, anything that negatively reflects your company could be brought into the limelight. Which brings us to our final Con…
- When Handled Poorly, Your Reputation Could Suffer.
Remember that customer we discussed earlier? They decided to talk to the press about their dispute. Their comments came across as genuine and put their company in a good light without tearing anyone else down – they did it right. However, it’s not hard to imagine how some heated or uncalculated comments could spell trouble for a construction business. Even where a party is in the right, if their comments come across as brash or whiny, their reputation could suffer. In this business, reputation is everything.
When working on a newsworthy job, make sure that any and all comments on the job are coming from someone authorized to comment. (Of course, if you signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement [NDA], don’t make any comments!) It could not be more important that the voice of the issue knows exactly what they’re talking about. And that’s a potential Pro, too – sounding professional and knowledgeable in the press will signal that you know what you’re doing and you won’t be taken lightly.
Also, stick to the facts of the dispute – speculation or comments reflecting opinions can quickly turn sour. When opinions are provided, they shouldn’t be made to injure anyone else – they should be made to accurately reflect the situation and to gain public support of your position.
Finally, if comment is made to a news outlet, it may be a good idea to let everyone involved know that it’s coming. Much like being blindsided with a lien, getting caught off guard with a negative news story on the project will only anger a property owner. Plus, chances are they’ve already been reached out to for comment.
Resources to Help You Get Paid
We weren’t exaggerating earlier when we said that mechanics liens “speak for themselves” and don’t need any help from a PR outreach. Mechanics liens are the most powerful tool available to those in the construction industry to help settle payment issues and disputes. Here are a few places for you to go to learn more about how a lien can help your company get paid.