Director of Alpha Public Relations
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Building a positive profile in the media can be of benefit to lawyers’ businesses and their careers. Stuart Anderson, director of Alpha Public Relations, sets out a number of tips to help legal professionals engage with journalists effectively.
Many legal professionals see dealing with the media as a chore, and are suspicious of journalists. It is wise to be cautious – the press have their own agenda, which may not coincide with yours – but positive engagement with the media can, if done properly, raise your profile and position you as an expert, benefiting both your career and your business.
Elaine Motion, chairman at Balfour + Manson, says, “I have found engaging in PR an invaluable tool for promoting our firm and the expertise of our lawyers. I have worked on a number of high-profile cases over the years, and being able to provide easily understood comment on cases or judgments in a prompt manner has enabled us to ensure our voice, as well as that of our clients, is heard.”
Mark Briegal, founding partner at specialist firm Bennett Briegal, is the author of A Concise Guide to Solving Partnership and LLP Disputes without Litigation. He has written numerous articles on specific areas of the law as well as undertaking interviews on the radio and with newspapers and specialist magazines.
He says, “Good PR has helped raise the profile of both the practice and myself as a leading practitioner in my area. This then leads to more instructions of the work we want to do.”
News and features
There are two main ways in which lawyers can appear in the media: news and features. News stories are reports on events that are likely to be of interest to readers of any given publication.
If something has happened in your business that you would be interested in reading about if it happened at a competitor of equivalent size, then potentially you have news story on your hands. The converse is also true.
If you are a specialist in an area that is the subject of a wider news story then you may also be able to provide commentary as an expert. Search #journorequest on Twitter for opportunities to make quick-fire comments.
Features tend to be longer-form, analytical articles that either explore an issue or provide background to an ongoing news story. Lawyers can normally get involved either by providing expert comments to journalists, or by writing articles themselves.
Engage with your PR people – and don’t get fired
First, a word of warning: if you are in a junior position then speak to your manager before engaging with the media. Most organisations have policies governing who can, and cannot, act as a spokesperson, and you could be putting your job at risk if you speak to journalists without the appropriate authority.
Many, possibly most, lawyers – whether in-house or in private practice – will work for businesses that employ either an in-house public relations department or an external agency. They can make contact with publications for you and should be your first port of call if you want to begin building a profile for yourself in the media.
Balfour + Manson’s Elaine Motion says, “We engage a fantastic PR agency, Acumen, who are on hand – often at the 11th hour – and provide invaluable support, from drafting and issuing statements to fielding press calls, assisting lawyers with thought leadership articles and generally simplifying the whole ‘going to the press’ process.
With their expertise and extensive contact network, a number of our articles and comments have been read across the globe.
If you work on contentious matters then, as well as promoting yourself and your business, it is possible that at some point the media will come directly to you for comment. If you know a judgment is in the offing, or that a dispute is likely to make it into the public domain, then be prepared with a pre-drafted statement before the phone rings.
If this is something that is likely to happen often, or if you plan proactively to work with the media regularly, then you should also consider requesting that your employer provides you with media training. This will benefit you and ensure you present your organisation in the best light.
Mark Briegal vouches for the value of this: “While at my last practice, I received media training from our PR agency – No Brainer Agency. They gave us invaluable training and skills in LinkedIn, TV and radio appearances.”
Finally, remember that building a profile in the media takes time. It is likely to take a lot of plugging away before you become a regular contributor to the media – but, once it happens, there is usually a snowball effect.
A brief flurry of press articles might flatter the ego but it is by having your name appear in the press consistently month-in, month-out, year-in, year-out that the greatest benefits of organisational and personal brand building will be felt.
- Connect with Stuart Anderson on LinkedIn