What can attorneys learn from cremation?

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has more than 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and is on the Public Affairs Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, where he has spoken at CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Sometimes when we’re doing publicity, we might be afraid to mention the unmentionable – like death. It makes us squeamish and fearful. And cremation doesn’t fare any better. After all, how many times have you heard the word and thought, “What a great promotional opportunity?”

Yet that’s what the Cremation Society of Illinois did by hosting an open house and inviting Barbara Brotman from the Chicago Tribuneto do a story about it called “Crematorium holds open house to demystify process.” When I saw it, I was thrilled; not because it’s such a positive, feel-good topic, but because it’s a great way for attorneys to learn about dealing with unsavory topics when they need to deal with the media.

Attorneys are often afraid to talk about problems that they’re having with a case, so they’re tempted to say “no comment” to keep themselves and their clients safe. Even though attorneys don’t intend to sound dishonest, such a comment can come off as negative and make it seem as if they’re covering up something. So the best thing to do is to tell your own bad news quickly and succinctly.

For instance, if there’s been a personnel issue at your firm, you could say something such as, “We have a clear policy that respects all people. We’re aware of the problem and want to look into it.” Or, if the media has been misrepresenting the facts about a case that you’ve been working on, you can contact them and correct the information while still maintaining your professionalism. This is one of the ways that you can present the truth so that your side of the story will be considered.

The Cremation Society held the open house to demystify a gruesome topic. Attorneys can also demystify the legal process to let the public know that they have nothing to hide. What’s important is thinking about how what you say in the media will affect your case and your reputation.

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