By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.
When a lawyer first approaches me about using public relations to promote a legal practice, quite often the name of a competitor who is frequently quoted in the media comes up. Inevitably I’m asked, “Why is he always the expert? And how can I get that role … by tomorrow?”
Just as the journey from being a freshly minted law graduate to a respected attorney takes longer than one night, the quest to become the go-to lawyer for reporters and journalists takes more than just one phone call or a single outreach effort by a legal PR professional.
Rather, it takes persistence, repeating your promotional message and demonstrating that you are a reliable, responsible and respectful resource. You must also be willing to occasionally make bold, calculated legal PR moves.
One such way to start getting is through a press release.
A press release can plant promotional seeds that yield a bumper harvest lasting several years. That was the case for a Legal Media Matters law firm client whose attorneys have been quoted frequently in the media on a topic that was fodder for a series of press releases in 2007.
1. Choose the right types of cases to publicize.
Not every case warrants a press release. A publicist who understands the legal profession and has a working knowledge of how and when the media covers legal developments is a valuable partner in deciding when a press release is warranted.
Our law firm client was in the process of filing several consumer class action cases. The suit filings were, in and of themselves, a bold legal maneuver — existing law in the state was not favorable to consumer plaintiffs — but my client felt there were strong legal and public policy arguments that merited the filing.
In 2007 we started sending out press releases, highlighting the claims, when some of the cases were filed. The media was interested, and reporters from both legal and general interest publications pursued the story.
2. Be responsive and respectful.
Reporters are often turning articles around on extremely tight deadlines, but they take their responsibility to provide clear, accurate and unbiased information seriously. Lawyers who quickly return phone calls and use interviews to educate reporters on the law soon become favored resources.
After those releases went out in 2007 and calls from the media started coming in, the attorneys called the reporters back promptly. Because we had sent out the releases, the attorneys were able to anticipate the phone calls and respond quickly, often within an hour of receiving a call.
The attorneys also took the time to explain the area of the law to the reporters in plain English and provide the public policy reasons for filing the suits. Background information, though not always quoted, helps a journalist write confidently on the topic at hand.
3. Coverage begets coverage
Once the suits had received media attention and our client began building relationships with members of the media, the stage was set for future coverage of the cases.
Because of their importance in terms of new case law and public policy implications, the cases made their way through the judicial process – from trial court to appellate courts. Along the way, the media outlets that had initially covered the cases had an interest in following the rulings. And because cases are not resolved overnight, this meant a smattering of articles over the next several years.
So recently, when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled on yet another of these novel consumer cases — in my client’s favor — the stories were picked up without any PR outreach effort. The media monitored the court’s hand-downs and jumped on the stories.
Once again, my client was ready for the phone calls and was featured in the media.
Of course, this odyssey, as I noted earlier, did not begin and end in just one night, one week or even one year.
It also required the dedication of my client. The publicity was simply a mirror reflecting the firm’s hard work and commitment to the case and the public policy issues raised by the cases. When the favorable results were obtained, my client was ready to answer questions and serve as a resource.
At Legal Media Matters, we provide legal public relations, law firm marketing and attorney website content writing services.