Legal PR: 5 Tips for a Successful Media Interview

5 legal PR tipsAs with everything else in life, preparation is paramount

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

Noted lawyer Louis Nizer once said, “Preparation is the be-all of good trial work.” The same can be said for giving a good media interview.

Unlike just showing up and hoping for the best, preparing ahead of time will help you put your best foot forward. Here are five tips to help you prepare for your moment in the spotlight.

1. Find out the topic of the interview ahead of time.

If the interview is for service, or “how-to,” journalism, the reporter will let you know at the outset the topic of the story. For example, an estate planning lawyer may be asked to provide comments for an article on how to decide whether a will or a trust is appropriate.

2. Research the reporter’s previous stories.

Read up on the reporter before you sit down for an interview. If he or she is known for investigative pieces and you didn’t get much detail about the interview topic, you may want to consider contacting a public relations professional before the interview. A publicist has the background and expertise needed to determine whether the story is likely to be a negative piece and can advise you on how to proceed.

3. Anticipate the questions you will be asked.

Well before a lawyer ever picks a jury, the attorney will analyze the case in the best — and worst — possible light. Doing so helps the lawyer anticipate the opposing side’s strategy and develop an appropriate response.

When it comes to a media interview, reviewing all of the possible questions that could be asked is vital. Having an experienced publicist pose as a devil’s advocate can be an indispensable aid.

4. Formulate succinct answers and determine a set of three or four points you want to communicate.

Although sound bites are abhorred, they are useful. A quick, memorable statement will stand out in the reporter’s mind and make writing the article easier. A long, rambling answer can take up valuable print space.

If the interview is with a radio or television reporter — who is preparing a segment that is, on average, just 90 seconds long — you have to be able to get right to the heart of the matter.

5. Don’t ask to review the article before it is published.

Most journalists understand that a free and independent press plays a crucial role in a democracy. They take their responsibilities as the so-called fourth estate seriously. Just as a lawyer would never ask a judge to review a ruling before it is handed down or an employee would never ask to prescreen an employment evaluation before it is delivered, an interview subject should not ask to review an article before it is published.

However, you should offer your e-mail address and cell number in case the reporter has any follow-up questions or needs to clarify your comments.

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