Getting The Media To Call On Your Law Firm
BY Chris Wilkerson
There are lots of ways to get your law firm’s name out there in hopes of drumming up business. You still have the traditional methods of print, TV and radio ads, but your website, a blog and even a Twitter account can compel someone to find out more about your firm.
One thing all of these methods have in common is that you have 100 percent control of the message – and controlling your company’s message is always a good thing.
But there is another way to use the traditional media of print, TV and radio that might open you up to new customers and give your firm some credibility that paid advertising cannot produce.
You can pitch yourself or your law firm to the editorial department of a local newspaper, magazine, TV or radio station and potentially be used as an expert on a subject that happens to be a specialty area for you.
All of these traditional media outlets are always looking for fresh content. As the economy has taken its toll on these businesses, advertising revenue has fallen and the editorial staffs often have dwindled.
Each reporter has to cover more and more territory as reporting jobs get frozen. A reporter who used to cover the Sheriff’s Department and the hospitals may now also be covering the local government and the county courts. An attorney with experience and expertise can be a solid source for one of these overstretched reporters.
Each publication, radio station and TV network has its own unique audience. Business Journal stories are written for CEOs, small business owners, and managers. The TV station is producing work for the person you find in a Walmart or at the suburban mall. The radio news is focused on busy professionals on their way to work or people in their kitchens preparing dinner. The local independent weekly has a different audience than the daily paper, so the first thing you have to do in pitching yourself as a potential source for stories in these newsrooms is to decide which audience you are trying to reach.
TV and Radio
Some TV stations have been open to a weekly segment in which an attorney comes in for five minutes to field legal questions from viewers. Yes, you are giving out free advice (just like you have been doing at cocktail parties for years), but you are also getting your name out there and putting a face with that name.
If you want to pitch a weekly Q&A to one of the local TV stations or even one of the radio stations, remind them that you think this would be a viewer or listener service. Lots of people have easily answerable questions about the law but might be afraid to call the firm up cold. Offering yourself for free legal answers puts you in a warm light to be called upon for deeper issues and maybe a new client.
It is probably not going to run in the 6 p.m. newscast. But, they will often want to try you out on the morning show or maybe the 4 p.m. early news.
Same goes for a local news radio program. They need to fill time with news just like the TV stations. Local voices they can get for free might be just the right match for who they want to get on the air.
In both cases, get in touch with the station manager or the news director for the station. Let them know you have an idea that might be beneficial to their viewers or listeners. Set up a meeting at a time that works for their deadline schedule. Bring coffee and food to warm them up to the idea too.
Newspaper and magazine editors require a different type of pitch. Since most of these publications have begun catering to a more targeted audience than the TV and radio stations, there is an opportunity to gain some visibility closer to your practice area. A great way to get the attention of a news editor at a daily paper or a weekly newsmagazine is by keeping an eye on the news of the day.
Let’s say the legislature is going to propose some new laws regarding immigration. If you are an immigration attorney, then you have expertise that will help a reporter put together a well-rounded story instead of just what the State Senator has to say about the matter. You can put the proposed law into perspective for the reporter. Or maybe the State Supreme Court is about to decide a case involving child custody or divorce. If you are a family law attorney, you have real insight that can help the reporter explain the ramifications of that law. Maybe the county commission is going to vote on changing the zoning in a part of town where a factory is being proposed. If you are a real estate attorney, then you can help explain to the reader what this will mean for property values.
In some cases, the news editor might not have time to write a story about the particular issue or they might be understaffed. In that case, ask if you can write an opinion piece about it to help their readers understand the news. They may have to send you over to the editorial board and talk to another department, but the opinion pages are well read.
You might even find yourself convincing the news editor or reporter that this story is worth writing. Daily papers have news wires and often count on those wires for content from the state capital or Washington, D.C. If you can help the news editor at your local newspaper put together a localized version of a bigger national or statewide story, then you might get your name in the paper with your firm’s name as an expert on the issue.
Of course, the downsides of this method of pitching yourself to the news media are the lack of ultimate control over the content and that it can be frustrating when you get turned down. But the upsides are that it is free and the editorial pages of the print media can tend to hold more credibility that the advertising pages since they have been independently vetted.
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