What are you doing to make your law firm stand out from the competition? While other firms are spending money placing ads that people actively try to ignore, you could be working with media sources that your clients trust and respect—which is what PR can help you achieve.
However, it can be a challenge to get news organizations to consider—or even look at—what you have to say. It’s important to recognize that, ultimately, you’re looking to pitch ideas to reporters in a way that helps them serve their audience first.
Being newsworthy is at the core of any law firm’s PR strategy. With the right coverage, the media can expose your firm to a wide public audience, including your next clients.
Here, we’ll look at what news organizations are looking for, and three ways your law firm can give them what they want.
How to work with news organizations
News organizations exist to share new and noteworthy information with the public—the two key terms here being “new” and “noteworthy.”
Reporters are not looking to write about something that happened weeks, months, or years ago, nor will they write about something that hasn’t happened yet. The fact that something may or may not happen in the future is typically not news—unless it’s rooted in a recent development or is being discussed by someone extremely qualified to speak and make predictions about an issue.
Human interest is another big factor that determines what gets shared in the media. Captivating stories help engage audiences, and—with the right pitch—your firm could be the subject of a feature profile. (For more on how to be the feature of a news story, read How to Get the Media to Tell Your Story.)
However, finding ways to share topical information often carries more long-term opportunities for your firm. Reporters don’t have time to look for subject matter experts, so if you can make yourself known once, chances are, you’ll be asked to contribute to a news story again.
Let’s look at three ways to do this.
1. Inform and interpret timely developments
Lawyers are uniquely privileged when it comes to working with reporters. Being highly educated and experienced with the inner-workings of highly specialized areas of contention, lawyers are especially qualified to provide information on issues that affect many people. Lawyers also bring an element of trust and authority that journalists respect.
Take, for example, Richard Bell, a real estate lawyer at Bell Alliance, who recently spoke with reporters about a 15% foreign-buyer’s tax introduced to quell a hot real estate market in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this year.
The tax was introduced without notice and affected people looking to buy and sell property in Vancouver. In many cases, those who had already committed to buying properties ended up with a hefty added fee. Many buyers also ended up backing out of deals, creating problems for sellers who had already entered contracts to purchase new properties.
Richard provided timely commentary on how the new tax would affect homeowners and potential buyers alike. He was also able to demonstrate his knowledge and authority on a subject that would likely result in a number of litigations in the near future—putting him in a prime position to work those cases.
2. Provide relevant information to those who need it
Timeliness isn’t the only important factor when it comes to being newsworthy. Many issues are forever evolving, and people are always looking for fresh insights and information.
How do you go about finding a newsworthy topic to provide insight on? Start with your own experience. Identify a common area of difficulty among your clients, and provide context for the issue.
Consider Lewis I. Landerholm, Founding Attorney at Landerholm Law, who discussed six common misconceptions about divorce with the Portland Business Journal. He provides sound advice to those who may be considering separation from their spouse—including what to think about in terms of child custody, division of assets, spousal support, and more.
Lewis also makes sure to emphasize the value of qualified legal support during a separation, saying:
You wouldn’t diagnose a broken arm, so don’t diagnose a broken marriage. You are dealing with binding legal documents, which should be drafted by a professional attorney. Attempting to complete the documents on your own could cost more money in the long term.
Lewis has provided useful information, and positioned himself as a trusted authority figure on divorce and separation. As such, someone who is thinking of getting a divorce and who reads this article will likely remember his name when the time comes to secure representation.
3. Make your own news
There’s more than one way to make a headline. Take Mike Freed, who’s been in the media in a number of contexts. Earlier this year, he was in the news for running 160 miles across Florida to raise $50K for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Based on his pro bono work experience, Mike wanted to draw attention to the fact that poor and vulnerable segments of society often don’t have access to civil legal aid when they’re taken to court.
What’s important to note about this type of coverage is that it is cause-specific and doesn’t offer much in terms of self-promotion—and, given the context, probably rightly so. While making headlines can help increase your exposure to potential clients, it’s also important to consider how you’ll be received. There is a fine line between providing valuable information and being seen as selfish and opportunistic.
The story you pitch should ultimately be based on your goals. In this case, Mike was able to raise money and awareness for a worthy cause that he cares about—and even altruistic goals can help expand your network and build your firm’s reputation.
Take the right approach to law firm PR
When it comes to your firm’s public relations strategy, it’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve. While seeing your face and name in a publication may feel good, it shouldn’t be a goal in and of itself.
Good PR takes time and effort, and knowing how to make the most of your effort will allow you to ensure you keep up with your other duties as a lawyer.