Lawyers can use bylined articles to secure media coverage for themselves regarding the topics they’re writing about
Interestingly, as the influence of the media has shrunk based on the internet and the contraction of editorial staffs across publications—newspapers, magazines, etc.—bylined articles and other forms of lawyer-created media have exploded thanks to the rise of content marketing.
But what’s really interesting is that lawyers and law firms can use bylined articles to drive the news cycle. In other words, they can use articles they write that carry their “byline” (i.e., their name) and get published in third-party media outlets—commonly, industry or “trade” publications—to secure media coverage in those same, or different, media outlets.
The bylined article <-> media coverage pipeline
When lawyers write about issues they think are interesting and of relevance to their target audiences—usually past, current, and prospective clients and referral sources—they may also arouse the interests of reporters who are covering those clients’ industries and the topics the lawyers are writing about.
If you think about it, the same best practices you will want to employ when you craft a compelling piece of content for your target audiences—you want it to be engaging, well-written, easy to digest, and focused on a topic of relevance to those audiences—are the same best practices you’ll want to employ to attract the attention of the media.
But because reporters who cover the law or the industries lawyers clients’ are in are always on the lookout for new trends, perspectives, and interesting stories generally, your bylined articles could serve as inspiration for their future reporting.
For example, perhaps your article shines the spotlight on a trend hiding in plain sight. Maybe it challenges conventional wisdom. Or maybe it attempts to explain a thorny issue from a new perspective.
If any of these articles pique a reporter’s interests, they might pursue the idea further. And guess who they’re going to call to comment on the topic? Well, of course, you because you will be perceived as knowledgable about and authoritative on the topic you wrote about.
(Certainly, the reverse is true too. If you are quoted in a news story about a business or legal trend, you should consider writing an article about that topic because the news story could have drummed up your target audiences’ interest (or awareness) of the trend—a trend they might need legal guidance regarding now or down the road.
Two examples of driving the news cycle through a bylined article
Recently, two of my clients wrote articles that caught the eyes of reporters and resulted in the clients receiving interview requests from reporters working on articles further exploring the topics they wrote about.
One lawyer wrote in his local daily legal newspaper about the failure of the Social Security Administration’s cap on attorneys’ fees in Social Security Disability Insurance cases to keep pace with inflation. He argued that the fees cap, which at the time of this blog post has not been increased since 2009, is driving Social Security lawyers to leave the practice because their practices aren’t profitable enough given the amount of time they spend on their clients’ cases.
As a result, would-be clients are forced to either go it alone before the Social Security Administration, rely on unknowledgeable counsel, or simply do nothing and miss out on federal benefits they are entitled to.
A few days after that article, the lawyer was contacted by a reporter for that same publication. She interviewed him and later published this article about the topic that included a quote from him.
Another lawyer, across the country from that first lawyer, had a similar experience—though his is still in progress as of the writing of this post.
That lawyer, the managing partner of a 20-lawyer plaintiffs’ firm, wrote an article in his local daily legal newspaper about what law firms must do to ensure they prosper in COVID-tinged times.
A reporter from the ABA Journal, which is the official publication of the American Bar Association, the primary professional organization for lawyers, read it, reached out to him, and asked if he could interview the lawyer for an article he was working on about how the Great Resignation is impacting law firms.
At the time of this post being published, that article is still in progress. But even if that article never gets published, that lawyer had an opportunity to speak with a particular reporter regarding a particular topic solely because of an article he wrote.
A key additional benefit to showing off your knowledge and wisdom
Of course, lawyers want to show past, current, and future clients and referral sources, through their bylined articles, that they are knowledgable and wise about the areas of law they practice—and thus deserve their business or referrals.
But their bylined articles can also show reporters that they are knowledgable and wise about the areas of law they practice, and can provide inspiration to those reporters for new stories they can pursue.
I’ve always encouraged clients to think about interesting topics for bylined articles, and to write those articles, because such articles are a pillar of a lawyer’s marketing and business development efforts.
It doesn’t hurt that this core book-of-business-building tactic can also result in some publicity for themselves and their law firms.