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Public Relations Starting Point for Lawyers

by Tom Ciesielka

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Recently, attorneys for the fantasy sports operator DraftKings Inc. were quoted in the Boston Globe, saying "negative publicity surrounding [a] cease-and-desist letter was having 'a chilling effect on DraftKings' business nationwide, as well as its ability to attract new investors and partners, and causing irreparable damage to its business reputation'." Even though negative publicity has affected the company's reputation, the attorneys have still gotten exposure with the public. Therefore, the attorneys' firm could get new clients when people read, and are impressed with, their savvy comments.

Of course, publicity is challenging when you're associated with a controversial case or dealing with a crisis. However, attorneys should consistently be involved in a public relations strategy, even when there doesn't seem to be any breaking news. Here's a "crash course" of four tips:

1 – Start with an assessment by asking yourself these three questions:

What are newsworthy items at my firm? (e.g., promotions and new hires, recent noteworthy cases, pro bono work)
In what areas of law is my firm the most trusted?
Who at my firm is the best source for the media?

2 – Be an expert.

Contact the media to let them know what issues you can comment on, and give them some helpful information such as links to legal resources, articles, and even other people who can help expand their knowledge. Here is an example of an email that you can send when you want to offer a journalist insight on a topic that is developing:

Dear [Media contact's name],

I saw your article about [insert topic]. As the courts weigh in on [topic], the litigation will probably go in a new direction. That's because I've been noticing that companies are asking for a more aggressive legal strategy on [topic].

3 – Press releases aren't always the only answer.

Some attorneys assume that if they send out a press release, the media will automatically respond. If the press release sounds like a sales pitch, it will probably be avoided. It's important to create a press release that has useful, concrete information, and is especially effective when it is linked to current topics. It should also be an extension of other parts of your publicity plan (such as social media, articles, website content, etc).

4 – Create your own content.

I touched upon this in point 3; you should write articles for legal publications or websites, or outlets where your potential clients spend time. Your website should also have useful information that people can read or download. For instance, you could provide advice for common issues, such as real estate purchases. You could also combine advice with links to government websites about relevant laws, such as local zoning ordinances or the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you're using social media, share links to articles that you or others have written about legal issues that affect your current and potential clients.

Whatever you do, remember that public relations has evolved from simply sending out a press release or holding a press conference, where it's expected that the broadcast or print media will show up. In today's diversified media climate, attorneys should think creatively to stay top-of-mind, whether events seem major or minor.

tciesielka
By Tom Ciesielka - President - TC Public Relations

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations, a public relations firm that specializes in serving small – midsize law firms, non-profits and faith-based organizations. For over 25 years Tom has worked in public relations, marketing, and business development. read more...

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