Media relations to benefit your practice (with tips)

Jim Martinez, a former reporter and editor, has spent years working at some of the world’s largest public relations firms atoning for the crises he caused.  He can be reached at jim@rightstorygroup.com.

The media can be a powerful marketing tool for attorneys, but they don’t seem to know how to use it.

Many law firms have launched blogs and other social media channels to give their attorneys a voice, on the “field-of-dreams” theory that if you build it they will come.  Sadly, they probably won’t.

On Dec. 5, Nielsen’s Blogpulse reported there are nearly 179 million blogs on the Internet – and that almost 99,000 had been created in the immediately preceding 24 hours. The likelihood of one law firm’s blog getting attention in all that clutter is miniscule.

But there is a more efficient and cost-effective way for attorneys to get attention: build relationships with traditional trade media.  Trade journalists continually seek fresh perspectives and expertise about the industries they cover – and they write for an audience that’s hungry for it.  So, attorneys experienced with the issues confronting different industries can become valuable sources for these journalists and reach an audience of receptive parties.

The advantage to working with trade media is that attorneys can avoid the expense of creating blogs, producing videos or printing and distributing brochures to publicize their points of view.

As I mentioned in the last post, consumer media outlets tend to benefit clients because the court reporters who work there cover pending litigation.  However, trade media tend to offer real opportunities for attorneys.  But, as with all media relations, there are some guidelines to follow:

  • Begin by focusing on real expertise.  Determine what experience qualifies you as an expert.  Do you know the steel industry, pharmaceutical industry, tax law or something else? Polish your resume to reflect that expertise and send it (or have your marketing staff send it) to a few media outlets that cover those industries, offering to arrange a meeting to share your point of view.
  • Offer commentary on the issues.  A quick way to raise your profile is to offer yourself as an expert commentator on issues confronting an industry.  Do not discuss specifics of any case, but talk in general terms about things like regulatory issues, merger and acquisition trends, the future of intellectual property protection, etc.  This raises your profile with prospective clients.
  • Become a legal observer.  When legal issues arise in an industry, offer your perspective on how such cases have successfully been handled in the past – or discuss the issues that are really at stake.  This ties your expertise to industry news, virtually guaranteeing that you’ll be noticed.
  • Offer to contribute a regular blog.  Most trade outlets have online channels, including blogs.  Contributing to a publication’s blog offers greater value than producing your own because the publication’s readers are a built-in audience.  And, by becoming a regular contributor, the readers will recognize you as an expert.
  • Merchandise your coverage.  Whenever you are quoted in trade media, post a link to the article on your firm’s web site.  Consider sending a link to clients and prospects.  And don’t forget to make copies of the article available for download.

By building real relationships with a few trade reporters, you can distinguish yourself quickly – and more effectively than you could by producing your own channel of communication.

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