A Publicity Crash Course

You shouldn’t have to wait for a public relations crisis to create an effective publicity plan. You can develop a successful public relations strategy anytime, even when there doesn’t seem to be any breaking news. Here’s a “crash course” of four tips you can start working on right now: crash course

1 – Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What are newsworthy items at my company (such as promotions and new hires, recent product developments, survey results, volunteer projects)?
  • In what areas is my business the most trusted?
  • At my company, who is the best source for the media?

2 – Be an expert.

Let journalists know what issues you can comment on, and give them some helpful information such as links to resources, articles, and even other people who can help expand their knowledge.

When you want to offer a media professional insight on a topic that is developing, you can send an email such as this:

I saw your article about [insert topic]. I actually have experience with such a situation because I do [specify your specialty]. If you need further information or would like to include some comments about it, please contact me at the email address or phone number below. I also know someone who has experience with [something relevant], and I can give you their contact information as well.

3 – Press releases aren’t always the only solution.

Some people spend a lot of time on a press release and send it out to several contacts, assuming the media will automatically respond. If your press release sounds like you’re trying to sell something instead of communicating a story, they probably won’t be interested. A press release should have useful, concrete information about a relevant topic, especially one that is connected to current trends. Basically, press releases should fit with other parts of your publicity plan (such as social media, articles, videos) instead of being the only trick in your bag.

4 – Create your own content.

I touched upon this above–you should write articles for publications or websites that relate to your area of expertise. You should also look for outlets where your potential clients “hang out.” On your website, offer useful information that people can read or download. For instance, you could provide advice for common issues, or offer a “how to” guide that people can save as a PDF. If you’re using social media, share links to articles that you or others have written, which can help your current and potential clients.

In today’s diversified media climate, it’s important to think creatively to stay top-of-mind, whether events seem major or minor. After all, public relations is no longer about sending out a press release or holding a press conference. It’s about how you can communicate your message most effectively on a variety of platforms.

A version of this blog post first appeared at the Law Firm Consultants Network of Chicago.

Lawyers Measure Their Words (and Need To Also Measure Public Relations Efforts)

measuring-your-pr-successIn the Washington Post, it was reported that social media is no longer a fad in the legal industry. The story referred to a study that found “about 40 percent [of law firms] said blogging and social networking initiatives have helped the firm land new work.” Recently, a study at the American Bar Association revealed more than 60% of large firms surveyed have a blog and use social media such as LinkedIn.

With all that social media use, in addition to getting press coverage in more traditional media outlets, it can seem challenging to measure how well your publicity plan is doing. Here are tips to help you get started:

The biggest. It’s helpful to break down the kind of coverage that you are measuring. There are three categories: owned media, earned media, and paid media. “Owned” is content that you produce on your website and blogs, in your newsletters, and on your social media channels. “Earned” media is what others say about you, whether it’s through comments on other websites or social media, or what is printed or broadcast by journalists. “Paid” media is money you spend on advertising. Continue reading

Attorneys Can Break Through a Crisis with Effective Communications

crisis-communicationAre you ready for a crisis? Even if you think you’ve done nothing controversial, serious allegations or a lawsuit leaked to the media can put you or on the defensive. It might not matter if you are innocent, the negative publicity along the way might ruin your reputation.

In one example, Lumber Liquidators went to court to respond to an investor class action lawsuit. The company said the plaintiffs’ complaint is based on negative publicity. Even if the company is correct, its name has been tarnished. Lumber Liquidators has had to deal with government investigations and more litigation after “60 Minutes” broadcast a story about its products. Increasing problems have forced the company to respond in the media, as well as the courtroom.

Even if you’re in the safe zone now, you should create a crisis communication plan including:

1 – Assessment. Look at your current cases and clients to see if there are any potential problems, and think about what could happen as a result of a crisis. Develop a “scenario” plan to assess how your case could become harmful or controversial.

2 – Team. Choose someone to be a dedicated spokesperson if a problem occurs. Your team can include your firm’s partner, a communications expert, outside counsel, and anyone who is close to the issues.

3 – Audience. Think about who would be affected or concerned about a crisis related to your firm or a client. Your audience is internal and external, and includes employees, government agencies, vendors and suppliers, clients, and the media.

4 – Website. A part of your website should have a section that is not public, which can go live during a crisis when you need to communicate with the public. Sections could include statements, links, special contact information, and relevant court documents.

5 – Media contacts. Have a list ready of business and legal media outlets, including “traditional” and digital ones (such as prominent bloggers or social media influencers) that have already covered your case, or will probably cover it. Relationships should be established before the crisis hits, so think of ways to productively communicate with journalists.

6 – Personal inventory. Not all crises are related to cases. They could just be about individuals in your firm, or your own life. Make sure that people’s social media accounts and blog posts are free of any embarrassing, divisive, or controversial content.

Media is more fragmented than ever before, so be aware of the messages about you and your firm. By using Google Alerts and other monitoring tools, you can be ‘proactive in your messaging.

Liability for Lawyers on Social Media

social-media-liability-for-lawyersSocial media can be a liability for attorneys. Yet, many have yet to master the rules to stay out of trouble.

Using social media in a legal setting is a serious issue that it is being researched. A study was conducted titled “Ensuring an Impartial Jury in the Age of Social Media” for the Duke Law & Technology Review. The research provided examples of juror misconduct and discovered that the jurors surveyed take social media instruction seriously. Out of 140 jurors, “only six jurors reported any temptation to communicate about the case through social media.”

To prevent a mistrial or prejudice, the court has to make sure that there are specific social media instructions given to the jurors. Also, attorneys need to be aware of how social media affects the fairness of a trial. Here are 5 things to keep in mind:

1 – Facebook. The company’s website  says there are more than 900 million daily active users. Posts can be quickly shared and “liked.” Smart phones make it easy for jurors to take photos and videos, and post them on social media sites. Continue reading

Watch the News Disappear Before Your Eyes

watch-faceRecently, Gene Marks wrote in Forbes about “Why The Apple Watch Debut Is Worse For Apple Than Glass Was For Google,” saying that sales are down and people haven’t found the need to use it.

There’s something else about the Apple Watch that is troubling. Shortly after it debuted, the New York Times announced that it was going to create “one-sentence stories” for the watch. Those stories sound advanced and useful, especially on the small screen. However, it seems like it’s simplifying, even dumbing down content.

What has happened to established media outlets? They’re becoming tweets in places that aren’t even near Twitter. Of course, when newspapers only came in the form of paper that we could physically hold, those were the only places where we could read articles and Continue reading

Building an Attorney’s Reputation

reputationResearch from Gallup puts into question the credibility and ethical standards of lawyers. In one of their recent surveys, attorneys ranked just three positions above car salespeople in honesty/ethics. This demonstrates why it’s important for attorneys to manage their reputations so that people who look at them will positively differentiate them from the crowd.

Here are ways to do that:

1 – Clarify in your mind your audience. Before you embark on a publicity plan, decide who you want to communicate with: consumers, businesses, or other attorneys to help with referrals. Then decide what is the best way to reach them. It could be through traditional media, such as Law360, or an industry publication, which covers a concentration such as commercial real estate.

2 – “Small” is the eventual “big”. Some attorneys assume that if they want to build a solid reputation, they have to get major media coverage. It could help, or hurt. For instance, if you are working on a case that a national TV show wants you to comment about, but you have had no media training, you could make mistakes, which could jeopardize not only your reputation but your client’s as well. After you’ve gotten media training, it’s better to start out small, either with a local website, a local newspaper, or even a trade publication. That way, you’ll get used to crafting an effective message and be able to set your boundaries. Continue reading

Money Can’t Buy Off a Curse

curseIt seems like all the money in the world can’t buy good publicity. In Forbes, Agustino Fontevecchia did a round-up of infamous highlights from the lives of the Getty family in “The Great Getty Curse.”

Paul Getty was at one time the richest man in the world, so it seems with that success would come many other blessings. However, his sons had broken marriages, a grandson was kidnapped and addicted to drugs, and another grandson was found dead this year in a pool of blood. Fontevecchia also wrote a longer article about the Getty Family, “A cautionary tale.” He starts with J. Paul’s life, which had lots of romantic drama. So it seems the family has dealt with major controversies for generations, and probably will continue to feed the gossip mill for many years to come. Continue reading

Lawyers Should Love LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most effective platform for LI networkbusiness development, networking, and professional development for attorneys. According to an In-House Counsel survey, “LinkedIn leads all other social networks in professional usage and perceived credibility….”

While LinkedIn may seem complicated to navigate, here are some ways to use profiles more effectively.

1 – Clean it up. Your photo should be a professional headshot. Keywords are also important; they should be used in your professional headline and your summary. They can be included in sentences and in bullet points, and should reflect what you think clients are looking for. If you’re not sure which keywords to use, think about the goals of your practice or firm, and determine who your target audience is. Also make sure that all the sections of your profile are complete so that you can be labeled an All-Star.  Continue reading

Public Relations Agencies as Punching Bags

punching_bag_by_rj127911-d5kahrtWhen a company makes a mistake, they want public relations professionals to fix the problem. Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes can’t be fixed, even with the best pros on the planet. The Irish Times has an article about how the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is upset because one of its investments has gotten bad press. The organization owns a company that runs the UK National Lottery, but there have been a lot of technological problems, which has led to negative media attention.

The article explains that power outages, system crashes, and poor performance paint an unattractive picture, but the organization added another PR firm to brighten its image. However, even the article says it doesn’t matter because “it seems the OTPP bosses in Canada needed a fall guy” for its problems.

Not every publicity crisis can be wrapped up in a pretty bow. Sometimes the problems are so big, the only thing a PR professional can do is get the message out to the public effectively so that rumors don’t fly, and the company seems responsive rather than avoiding the issue. That’s why it’s important to have a crisis plan in place in advance to help limit the blame game.

Ebola Exploitation

virusSometimes an organization’s publicity campaign can backfire and in the process cause a substantial lawsuit. Jennifer Emily had a story in The Dallas Morning News about Nina Pham, who was a nurse caring for the country’s first Ebola patient. The patient died, and Pham got the virus and could have died herself. Actually, she can still die because she’s been told she risks organ failure. She says in addition to not being given adequate protection while treating the patient with the virus, the hospital didn’t prepare staff or take care of her properly.

She’s also complaining that her employer violated her privacy by telling the world that she was cured, and that’s where the PR blunder is really obvious. They were not supposed to divulge her medical condition, but because they wanted to show the public how great their hospital is, they used her without thinking about the legal consequences. At first, the hospital must have thought it was a positive public relations opportunity, but their mistake is a lesson for other people who want to run to the media to announce success: think before you leap. Make sure what you’re doing is legal and wise. Sometimes we only look at one side of a publicity campaign without thinking about the negatives. That’s why it’s important to plan and to consider all angles.