As the specialist Media Training consultancy for law firms, we work extensively with the PR agencies and in-house communications teams of a wide variety of magic circle, silver circle and other legal firms.
One of the issues that often comes up in our Media Training courses for lawyers is how they can work more closely with their Communications teams and PR advisors to get more and better media coverage. Given that all our media trainers are working journalists (operating under strict nondisclosure agreements), we’re always happy to develop some suggestions.
So here are five top tips to help partners and other lawyers help their Communications people to help them.
Find real news stories to comment on
Journalists like to hear from lawyers because they provide factual information and authority to news reports. As a lawyer, you can get better media coverage by looking out for issues already making the headlines and thinking about how they can comment on them.
It could be a merger or acquisition in the business pages, a trial at the Old Bailey, a question about data protection in parliament or a row about consumer rights. Identifying a current story and then developing an angle on it – a warning, an interpretation or perhaps some thoughts on what it means to other organisations in the same sector – can help raise the profile of a lawyer and the firm in the media. This is particularly useful in specialist media, whether you’re working in finance, human rights, planning, data protection or criminal law, for instance.
As journalists, our media trainers are fascinated by trends. They’ll tell you that they constantly write about “A growing number of companies…” or “More and more people…”.
We love situations of a “one instance” or a case study, they’re interesting in journalistic arithmetic because it ticks the “unusual” box. If we’ve got two examples, we’re not sure what to do with them, but by the time we’ve identified three cases, we can comfortably talk about a trend. As we advise participants in our Media Training courses for law firms, if you see more clients asking about a particular issue, companies are choosing a specific course of action or regulators tending to take a particular line on something, it’s worth talking to your communications team about issuing a press release or writing a blog on the subject.
The same is true if, as a lawyer, you notice the courts are making another decision that follows a particular trend over recent years. Your public relations team can then pitch this story to their own media contacts.
Keep it simple
Many of the lawyers we provide Media Training workshops for will tell you that they often give quotes to journalists by email rather than doing interviews on the phone or face-to-face. Many journalists like this arrangement as they can copy and paste what they’ve been sent.
However, they will often complain that the language used in the emails is formal and dry. It might also include technical terms that won’t resonate with the general audience or long references to case and statute law that, again, are not only irrelevant but take up too much space in the article.
The lesson is that if you’re providing a quote by email, make it short, punchy, and conversational. Translate legal concepts into the language of the pub and the coffee shop rather than the courtroom or the office. This often means accepting that you can’t go into every detail and add every caveat, but journalists don’t want to hear this anyway – they just want the broad-brush approach.
For the media, it’s more about how this issue or decision affects the audience. What are the risks and the opportunities, and what should the reader think about doing? This brief format can work well for lawyers as it gives just enough information to demonstrate they know what they’re talking about without providing free legal advice.
Develop some case studies and examples
Examples and case studies are the meat and drink of the media. It’s almost impossible to cover any issue, whatever it might be, without pointing to specific instances. We are very much aware, as we say in our Media Coaching for Lawyers, that client confidentiality is paramount. However, there are ways of offering case studies to journalists without revealing too much about the client.
Ideally, the media would like a named example, but something hypothetical will work. Lawyers can help journalists – and themselves – by providing real-life case studies. Obviously, asking a client if they will allow their details to be used to produce the kind of case studies that journalists want can be tricky, but we look at ways in which it can be presented as an opportunity for favourable coverage for the client and the law firm.
5. Comment as soon as possible
It’s a heartfelt plea that we hear from the in-house communications teams and the PR agencies of the law firms that we work with: “Can you come back to us quickly with a comment?”.
We know that lawyers are very busy people, but there is nothing more frustrating for their PR advisors than to have a request for a comment from a journalist on a target publication or prominent news outlet that they cannot help with because their colleagues don’t come back to them within the deadline.
Even providing two or three sentences – just some general thoughts expressed in punchy language talking about what a decision means or what organisations in the situation should or should not do – will work well.
If you really can’t help, let your Comms team know as soon as possible. There’s nothing worse for a journalist than waiting for comment and leaving space for it in their report only to be told at the last minute that the firm can’t help them after all. Not only does this mean that you’ve missed the opportunity in this particular case, but you’ll find that the journalist probably won’t come back to you in the future either. Reliability and the willingness to return quickly with a punchy relevant comment will mean that you rank highly in a journalist’s contact book.
London Media Training
In our Media Training courses for law firms, we help lawyers put across their messages during media interviews and take more control of them to get positive results. But it’s essential for those law firms to collaborate closely with their PR companies and in-house communications teams to make the most of media opportunities.
Media Training Remote
Our Media Training is flexible, bespoke and Informative. You and your firm can develop your skills to improve the likelihood of never missing out on positive media coverage.