Today marks the final entry in a series of excerpts from a Q-and-A session on how law firm marketers and PR professionals can get the most from members of the legal media. My thanks again to Paramjit Mahli for conducting this interview. We wrap up with advice for the new PR professional.
Q. Say a new PR person was starting from scratch and a partner wanted immediate coverage. Are there any words of wisdom could impart to them?
That’s a tough assignment — impatient partners are brutal to work for at the best of times, and “starting from scratch” probably means very few contacts in the media. This will come as no surprise, but relationships matter a lot in the legal media business. Journalists and editors tend to rely heavily on the freelance writers and marketing professionals who help bring them good stories, and breaking into those circles is a real challenge.
I’d say the best thing to do is start cultivating relationships with the media before the partner ever gets on the phone. Meet a reporter for lunch or take an editor for coffee, and focus the conversation on what they do and what they need. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how pleasantly surprised media folks are when a PR professional takes an interest in what they do, rather than immediately talking about themselves and everything they can offer. Journalists are used to being treated as means to an end, so treating them as ends in themselves will, after the initial shock and wariness fades, prove to be a very constructive approach.
If you don’t have time to plant those seeds and watch them grow — if you need results straight away — then you should start by narrowing your focus. What exactly does the partner want? Is she looking to appear in a mainstream media periodical, a legal trade magazine, or a client publication? What sort of coverage does she want: attention for her pro bono work, a spotlight on a recent court victory, general praise for being such an all-around amazing lawyer? Then figure out which periodicals offer the best chance of success with these criteria — don’t bother trying to sell a monthly magazine on a story about a decisive trial result, for instance (you’d be surprised how often PR people don’t pay attention to publishing frequency and production deadlines).
At that point, you can start pitching — but again, put the focus on what the publication’s needs are and how well your proffered content can serve that need. Treat the editor or journalist as a partner, take their perspective into consideration, and you’ll be remarkably successful.