Leveraging Your Reputation: Meeting your match

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.

I sometimes like to promote myself as an expert matchmaker. You want a date with the media? You got it. You want to get to know a certain reporter better? No problem. But PR matchmaking isn’t about dates and getting-to-know-yous, it’s about interviews and background meetings and making valuable connections with key reporters that care about your firm’s story. Consider the following tips to foster strong relationships and woo the media.

Pitch the Right Story to the Right Person at the Right Time

Would you show up to a date late, and then call your date the wrong name? Of course not, so don’t call a morning radio host who talks politics and ask about real estate law. Understand that there are many different titles in the media — reporter, producer, managing editor, columnist, executive producer, staff writer — so going straight to the host or editor in chief may not give you the best response. If you’re contacting a reporter, look for the specific beats and topic specialties to help you connect with someone who is already interested in your industry. Find the right time to contact a media outlet by first understanding its deadlines, and also by looking at editorial calendars and reading its most recent articles or program recaps to see what subjects have been recently covered. Every date is different, and likewise, pitching the media isn’t a one-size-fits-all game.

Don’t Exaggerate the Truth

Don’t tell your date you found the cure to cancer when you really just donate money to the American Cancer Society. Similarly, don’t claim to be an expert on lowering litigation costs if you charge $1,000 an hour. Talking about how wonderful your firm is gets you nowhere fast in the business world, and also can give you and your firm a bad reputation. Instead of using an exaggerated story to puff up your story, use tidbits from the real story in a captivating way. Deliver your message clearly, focusing on the parts your audience cares most about, without going overboard.  Also remember, reporters do their research, so you want to make sure you have all your facts straight.

Keep the Relationship Strong

When a date goes well, what do you do? Call and ask for another. If a story about you or your firm goes well, thank the reporter, and keep him or her on your “Hot Contacts” list. When you have additional information that would interest the same reporter, don’t just sit on it, hoping that the reporter calls you and asks what’s new. Think of it this way: Every relationship needs cultivating. Cultivate your status as a credible source by sending reporters information or ideas to help with their stories, or see what they are working on and if you can help. Once you’ve established that relationship, you need to keep it going and keep it strong.

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