Watch your mouth

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Every lawyer knows words are a powerful tool. Words have the power to persuade, dissuade, convince and influence. However, sometimes words can have a negative effect and make waves in a firm’s or attorney’s public relations pool. Consider the following to help keep the pool water smooth as glass.

Cut the fat

Using too many words can sometimes be detrimental to your message and to your audience’s attention span. The trick to being remembered is to make it short, relevant and clear, which is difficult yet necessary when explaining complicated legal cases to the media. Throw out the excess wordy garbage and stick to a basic explanation that everyone will understand. It sometimes helps to think “headlines.” Headlines are attention grabbers, so think of a one-liner that accurately conveys your message and keep it simple.

Just say no to “no comment”

“No comment” is a dangerous phrase. It gives the media and the public room to make what can be negative assumptions about why you have no comment. You don’t want the public to speculate more than they already do, so always be prepared with a short comment at the very least, even if it’s just acknowledging recent developments or events. This enables you to comment without actually commenting at all. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t say “no comment” to a judge or jury, so don’t say it to the media.

Talk the talk

Public speaking truly is a skill. Some lawyers are born with a natural ability and others must work hard to hone this skill. However, whether you’re a smooth operator or still trip over your words sometimes, always look for opportunities to practice preaching. Speaking at events and seminars or participating in panel discussions will establish you as an expert and improve your ability to use words effectively. Speaking in public is no exception to the phrase “practice makes perfect.”

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