While much has changed in the media industry in recent decades, a lot has stayed the same. If you’re looking to work with the media to increase public recognition of your law firm, and you don’t want to hire an expensive public relations (PR) consultant, you’ll need to know a bit about how to conduct your own PR. Knowing how to write a solid law firm press release can help.
One of the advantages of working with the media is that it doesn’t cost money and it can help expose you and your services to a large audience. In turn, this can help inform potential clients about your legal practice, while also building your reputation and authority.
But while you may be excited about the stories you have to share, you’ll need to find a way to bring that enthusiasm to reporters. It’s also worth noting that journalists and editors work to very tight deadlines. When reaching out to the media, you want to have a very clear sense of the story you’re presenting, while being very brief in your pitch, to be respectful of their time.
Writing a press release is often the most effective way to reach news organizations, but we’ll also look at a few other essential tools below.
Why press releases work
A press release is the most common and efficient way to pitch news organizations. It communicates everything you want to say, while giving reporters what they need to follow up for more information.
The act of writing a press release has a couple of advantages.
For one, it gives you the opportunity to frame your story the way you want to see it written and published, complete with quotations and images.
Writing a good press release requires that you focus on the most important information you want out there, and on why reporters should share your story with their audience. For example, if your law firm is contributing to a charity, what makes the story special? Do you have a special connection with the organization? If you’re hosting an event to raise money for the charity, where and when is it happening?
What goes into writing a law firm press release?
When it comes to writing a press release, there are certain conventions you should be aware of to help make your story stand out.
- Write eye-catching headlines to capture attention. You headline is your first, best, and possibly only opportunity to get a reporter to read your press release. Avoid using too many words, and make sure the subject ties into the actual content of your release.
- Include all of the most important details in the first paragraph. Include the who, what, where, when, and why as succinctly as possible. Your first paragraph should attempt to tell the whole story of your release, leaving the rest of the body to provide additional details.
- Keep your writing brief, to the point, and free of technical jargon. Lawyers often deal with highly specialized and technical subject matter, with respect to the very specific language of the law. But keep in mind that the average newspaper is written to an 11th-grade reading level. Be sure to communicate in a way that will be understandable to as wide an audience as possible.
- Provide quotations. Your quotes offer additional context to the information in your release, while giving you the opportunity to share them in your own voice. Good quotes also make it easy for reporters to copy and paste into their story.
- Include a date of release. This indicates that the news you’re sharing is in fact new. If the story you’re sharing is time sensitive, be sure to explicitly state when the information will be okay to share.
- Include a boilerplate. This should include a short bio, contact information, and a link to your website—everything a reporter will need to follow up if required.
For example, here’s a press release from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid that covers all of the best practices outlined above. It covers the story of Michael Freed, a business litigator who planned to run six marathons in six days to raise money for legal aid. And, here’s the story in the ABA Journal.
When to send a media advisory instead of a press release
A media advisory is similar to a press release in its formatting and writing style. The difference is that it typically includes very brief information—sort of a teaser—that encourages reporters to learn more. What’s key here is to give only the highlights and to not give too much away.
If you’re hosting an event, a media advisory can be a good way to encourage a reporter or photographer to attend in person. It also gives the media an opportunity to prioritize your story ahead of time.
What to include in a media advisory:
- Who’s hosting the event
- Time and location
- A brief teaser about what to expect
- Details on any photo opportunities
Other pitching tools
There’s more to PR than just your pitch. Creating additional resources for your ongoing work with the media will help save reporters time when looking for information, and will help you appear professional and credible. Here are a few resources to prepare:
- Media kit. A media kit is a general collection of resources explaining who you are. When writing about you, reporters can refer to your media kit for information about you and your firm. Include a personal and company bio, images, and links to past coverage.
- Pitch list. This is your list of contacts from the publications you’ve identified as targets for your PR engagement. Ideally, this will be a living list that you update as you make new connections or identify new publications to work with.
- Website. This might be fairly self-explanatory, but reporters will often look you up online to get a sense of your firm, who you are, and what sorts of services you offer. It can also be a means for reporters who want to reach out for contact information.
- Social media. Being on social media can increase your public profile and can help reporters find you. It’s also a way for you to keep up with publications, and to connect with reporters quickly and easily.
Developing your PR strategy and getting your story told
We’ve looked at some of the key resources that any communications professional uses in reaching out to and working with the media using a law firm press release. Following the tips above will ensure that you’re putting forward a good impression of your firm while meeting the expectations of busy media industry professionals.
But learning the tools is only part of the job. Knowing what stories to share, and being able to present information that is truly newsworthy, is key to getting your story told.