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PR and media relations play an enormous role in the business of law by promoting firms’ capabilities and increasing brand awareness, writes Tania Zamorsky of Zamo PR and Communications.
Some might assume that public relations is all about celebrities, products, or parties—but surely not lawyers and the like.
But as I learned when I moved from legal practice into legal marketing almost 20 years ago, PR and media relations play an enormous role in the business of law, helping to drive critical awareness of capabilities and brand. When you see a lawyer quoted in a top-tier outlet, odds are that a PR person—at least initially—made that happen.
A historically cautious bunch, some lawyers are suspicious or even fearful of PR.
However, if approached thoughtfully and professionally—with an understanding of how to work effectively with journalists, and of course steering clear of client conflicts—PR’s potential rewards exponentially exceed its risks.
Others may feel too busy to talk to the press. I once had a professional (albeit, medical) say, “My rate is X hundred dollars an hour—is the reporter going to pay me for my time?”
Of course, PR is something that professional service providers pay for. They do so because they understand that earned editorial coverage from serving as an objective third party source on matters that aren’t their own gives them a level of credibility that comes across as far more trustworthy than any advertisement or “advertorial.”
Even if someone isn’t devoting an entire story to you, being regularly quoted as a source in top-tier outlets and industry trades can make you seem like the source to clients researching you—an extremely valuable outcome.
How to Get Started
So how does one build the foundation for proactive PR? Where do you start? What should you talk or write about? After all, thought leadership doesn’t mean churning out commentary simply for its own sake, without critical context or a strategy that drives your business objectives
First, identify your professional passion, specialty, or niche. If you’re particularly skilled at or knowledgeable about one specific thing, such as a sub-category of a broader practice area, consider focusing some of your effort there. You might become the go-to person on that subject.
Think about your ideal audience and goal. Let others frantically and simultaneously chase the trending topic of the day. PR is too time-consuming to be used simply to show your smarts. What kind of client or other audience are you trying to attract? For what type of matter or specific project? Focus your efforts and your offered commentary or content there.
Find out what your clients are most concerned about or interested in right now. Out there on the ‘front lines,’ you’re in an ideal position to spot the trends or developments that truly matter now. The real-world answers to these questions will help shape and tell a newsworthy story. Reporters will want to tell it as well.
Ask yourself if you’ve recently made any distinctions in your work or business, or changed a strategy or approach. The answer to these questions may not be hard “breaking news,” but they can still lead to a perfectly respectable story or feature article.
You already know what’s newsworthy; you just don’t know that you know it. Any area that is unsettled or in flux, where some controversy exists, is potential news or editorial.
Reporters appreciate legitimate leads. If you give someone an idea to run with, they will likely quote you in the story. Even if you can speak only on background, you’ve established yourself as a helpful future source.
Although it applies more to bylined articles than news stories, everyone loves a “tip” story. Fill in this blank in a way that might speak directly to what’s important to your clients: “Five Tips for ___________” or “10 Things You Need to Know About _________.” Don’t worry, you won’t reveal all; you will simply skim the surface, inspire curiosity and/or concern, and then invite the reader to contact you for further information.
Any first-year law student can provide a staid summary of a fact pattern and ruling. To help your soundbite or other content stand out: Consider being a bit bold (even provocative, if appropriate), address an existing controversy, offer a new angle, and explain why your information really matters and the specific impact it could have. Most importantly, what do the people impacted need to do now?
After Being Quoted or Published
Share your coverage on your firm and personal website, blog, and/or social media platforms, and enlist colleagues to do so as well.
To build momentum, consider pitching the topic more broadly—maybe with a different angle—to other media or in other forms. If you’ve been quoted in one outlet, offer to write an article in another. Is the topic timely and important enough to support a client alert or even a webinar? Discuss with your marketing team.
Following these tips can help your thought leadership stand out from the sometimes mindless content cacophony—and truly shine.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.
Tania Zamorsky is the founder of Zamo PR and Communications, which specializes in B2B/professional services providers (particularly law firms) and nonprofits.
Reproduced with permission. Published August 10, 2023. Copyright 2023 Bloomberg Industry Group 800-372-1033. For further use please visit https://www.bloombergindustry.com/copyright-and-usage-guidelines-copyright/