Why Attorneys Should Be Working with the Press, Instead of Against Them
You know that public relations is an important aspect of your business development strategy. But do you know the appropriate plan of action to take in order to achieve optimal success?
- Who are my clients? What do they read? Do they read online publications? Knowing the answers to these questions will guide your choices of the publications to target, whether they are local dailies, weeklies, magazines or trade/professional journals. While being quoted in The New York Times is prestigious, it’s meaningless if your target market doesn’t read that publication. There are attorneys who want media exposure for personal reasons, but often this is in direct conflict with the targeted media relations campaign.
- Conduct an audit of your expertise. What areas of expertise do you have that are frequently the focus of news stories? This will help you identify reporters who cover your area of expertise and build relationships with them. Reporters are constantly on the lookout for attorneys who can simplify legislation; knowing who covers your area of expertise will help position you as a source. For example, if your area of expertise is workplace discrimination in the financial services industry, getting to know reporters who cover this beat is key.
- Know what reporters have been covering in your areas of expertise. There is nothing worse than pitching a story that has already been covered. Not only is it embarrassing, but it also demonstrates to the reporter that you or your public relations team has not done the homework. It is a sure way of lessening your credibility with that reporter.
- Don’t overlook changes or emerging trends in your practice area. These offer golden opportunities to be quoted or to provide commentary. Once you have built those relationships, you can send reporters a quick e-mail or call them, alerting them to possible stories.
- Too often opportunities on the Op-Ed pages are overlooked Writing an Op-Ed piece is a good way of getting to know the editor and bringing to light an issue that is affecting your target market. Letters published in Op-Ed pages can result in story ideas for reporters.
- Depending on your targeted publication, you can pitch Q&As and stories on pitfalls to avoid, such as the top ten mistakes to avoid when friends become partners in business ventures or top ten mistakes to avoid when negotiating a severance package. Even if your story submissions are overlooked, every couple of months, with the permission of the reporter, continue to send him story ideas. Reporters/producers/guest bookers all keep background information on topics that they cover.
- Don’t overlook the importance of becoming a resource for the reporter; this is where you provide background information. While you may not be quoted immediately, opportunities will continue to come your way. Reporters tend to have long memories; they know who is a valuable and trustworthy source. The busier they are, the more premium they place on their sources. Becoming a resource goes a long way toward building relationships with reporters.
- Consider inviting reporters to any Continuing Legal Education training/seminars that the firm may be offering. By extending the invitation, make certain that the seminar is in an area that the reporter is interested in.
- Monitor editorial calendars regularly. Many publications have their calendar online. An editorial calendar is a valuable tool for gauging what a publication plans to cover throughout the year, and helps you avoid missed opportunities. It gives attorneys and law firms plenty of time to remind reporters that they are available to be quoted and provides time to craft and submit story ideas.
- Know when to say no to the press. Reporters may be focusing on stories that will be detrimental to your target market. In such circumstances, it is prudent to give reporters a couple of other sources from whom they can obtain a quote. Whether or not an attorney wants to be quoted in such a story, it is still imperative to return the phone call in a timely manner.