Contributing to Your Firm's PR Efforts Is a Matter of Knowing How You Can Help

by JD Supra Perspectives
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[Rachel Patterson is a Digital Marketing Technology Assistant at Crowell & Moring LLP. This article by Rachel originally appeared in the May/June 2017 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter.]

The key to being a positive contributor to your law firm’s public relations efforts is understanding the role and scope of the firm’s PR efforts, says Kathryn Holmes Johnson, director of marketing and communications at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox.

Your firm likely has common PR actions (regardless of firm size) including: obtaining and managing media coverage of cases, sourcing and managing media interviews, placing bylined articles, securing rankings, handling crisis management, and managing internal communications.

...it is critical to understand what is important specifically to your attorneys and to your firm as a whole.

However, the PR needs of an AmLaw 100 firm likely don’t match up exactly with those of a boutique firm, so it is critical to understand what is important specifically to your attorneys and to your firm as a whole.

Once you understand what is happening, you will better understand how you fit in and what you can do to bring more to the table, said Holmes Johnson, speaking to the Future Leaders Shared Interest Group on May 23, 2017.

The young legal marketer would do well to learn what their firm’s PR person or team is doing and how they can help, whether they are already involved in PR or not.

If You Are Part of the PR Team

It’s important to have an established protocol, Holmes Johnson says, so that you are not reinventing the wheel every time.

Make it clear who the firm contact is for each PR effort. Your protocol should also include a process for vetting contacts, knowing who to loop in, and maintaining appropriate distribution lists.

Familiarizing all attorneys at your firm and any new laterals to the protocol is also equally important.

Standard operating procedures can also help your PR efforts become more efficient. Have pre-written language for standard items like abstract guidelines, photo shoot tips, interview tips, and media placement notifications, and you will save yourself time as well as present a unified, professional front to attorneys.

Choose Rankings and Recognitions Wisely

“Be strategic about which [rankings and recognitions] you pursue,” Holmes Johnson says, because there are so many. She recommends avoiding those that are ‘pay-to-play’ and to take your cues from what your competitors are doing.

Also, it is important to bear in mind that clients may become fatigued if they are asked to answer too many awards surveys. “Reserve the ‘ask’ for ones that count,” Holmes Johnson suggests.

...take your cues from what your competitors are doing.

As always, educating the attorneys on what you will or won’t pursue and why it is vital to a smooth relationship between attorneys and PR.

Build Relationships

One way to make a difference to your firm’s PR team is to establish and maintain media contacts. Know the reporter, their publication, and what beat they cover. Know who does what within your firm and who the go-to people are for a given subject matter.

If your firm has a conflict, facilitate a referral to an alternative source. Also, be timely and keep the reporter posted on key developments. If you follow these steps, you’ll gain a valuable media contact which can help raise the profile of your attorneys and your firm.

Just remember that “if you are going to engage with media, make sure you’re not going rogue,” Holmes Johnson says. Be sure to have the consent of those that are in charge at your firm.

Once you have the green light, always keep in mind one of the golden rules, says Holmes Johnson: don’t do media for media’s sake.

If You Are Not Part of the Team

Even if you are not in a PR role at your firm, you can collaborate with the PR team to help them – and to be seen as a useful resource.

Flag important matters for your PR team; there’s always the chance it has slipped by their radar. Share information about interesting soft stories which the PR team might not know about. Note when senior partners are speaking at or attending conferences, so that the PR team can consider setting up meet-and-greets with reporters in that market.

“If PR is something you can pick up… it’s a value add for your portfolio and a good skillset to have,” Holmes Johnson said.

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