Debra Pickett is president of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com). A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training services to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media. She writes here each week on topics related to law and media. To learn more, reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working with clients on developing key messages for their interactions with the media, we always start with what makes sense strategically. We quickly move beyond that, though, refining content and plans to meet ethical guidelines, confidentiality requirements and other important legal parameters. This editing process is crucial, of course. But the most check to make on any statement is one that isn’t codified in any set of official guidelines: it’s the gut check. This is the moment when you step back and ask, Is this who we are?
Marketing experts will tell you all about the importance of building a brand and maintaining it consistently. Too often, though, branding efforts put time into getting logos and taglines in the right places without a comparable emphasis on the deeper thinking that (hopefully!) went into developing the brand in the first place. At the end of the day, your brand is simply a shorthand way of telling the world who you are: it’s about how you do work and what matters most to you.
A good media consultant will tell you that getting yourself on national TV is a smart media strategy only if it gets the right message to the right audience. Reaching out to a small number of highly interested, highly motivated folks with a well-crafted message via Twitter will benefit you far more than having your name mentioned in some unconnected way on a reality show that isn’t watched by anyone in the group you’re trying to reach. Similarly, a big, splashy press announcement that gets all kinds of airtime is only helpful to you if it’s consistent with the kind of work you really do. This is good strategy. It’s got another name, too: integrity.
At the risk of turning this into a “very special” (and way, way too personal) edition of our usual law and media blog, I offer up my own career as an object lesson in personal brand integrity. Not because I’m good at it, but, because, in fact, I still struggle mightily with it. See, I’m the once-noted journalist who quit one of the best jobs in Chicago journalism in a very public way because the work I was assigned to do – becoming, essentially, a mommy blogger – didn’t jive with the brand I wanted to build for myself as a serious writer with a thoughtful point of view on politics and legal affairs.
The path leading to the challenging and interesting work I do today has been neither straight nor smooth. But, in stepping away from the job that was, undoubtedly fantastic, as well as undoubtedly wrong for me, I began a deeply satisfying journey, one I’m excited to continue each day and one that fills me with confidence when I counsel clients: if it’s not who you are, let’s not do it.