Best Practices to Maintain Relationships with Reporters

*This article was provided by Janet Falk, an expert in media relations for law firms. Learn more here.

You have created an Executive Media Profile as a tool to get on a reporter’s go-to list.

Here are Do’s and Don’t’s, tips to remain top of mind with reporters. Following them will help you generate the media coverage that will keep your name in front of clients, prospects and referral sources.

Be on the alert for the deadline of a new law, an anticipated regulatory announcement or some active litigation that is on everyone’s radar. Create an incisive quote that summarizes the current situation, and also forecasts either next steps or what the potential impact may be for individuals, businesses or corporations.

As an example, reporters quoted former federal and state prosecutors when the verdict was announced in the Boston Marathon bombing trial in April 2015 Most of the commenters, but not all, were from Massachusetts. How did those out-of-town attorneys manage to be quoted? In anticipation of the verdict, they (or their firm’s public relations professional) contacted the reporters in anticipation of the verdict’s announcement. They gave their credentials as former federal prosecutors who tried terrorism cases, thereby establishing their authority as sources. Then they included a potentially memorable quote as a taste of what they might say in the projected interview. These attorneys primed the journalists to contact them when the jury delivered its verdict and the reporters needed sources for their stories. 

Be available to speak to a journalist within the required time frame. Let’s say you have secured a reporter’s interest and set a mutually convenient time for an interview. If your plans suddenly change because you have to take a deposition, be flexible about re-scheduling the conversation. At the very least, notify the journalist that you will be unreachable 12 noon until 2:00 pm, so you can arrange an alternative time for the call.

Be memorable; craft a quote that is snappy and concise. Ideally, it will catch the reporter’s ear and make it into the article, where readers will also remember it. Acronyms, analogies, anecdotes and alliteration all work to keep the reporters’ (and readers’) interest. For example, put a twist on a familiar acronym such as SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Timing). If appropriate, visual imagery, word play and rhyme may also come into play. Perhaps compare the plaintiffs in a class action suit to the runway in a fashion show, where each participant becomes the focus, for the moment. These hooks effectively catch a reporter’s attention. 

Now the Don’ts.

Don’t send legal jargon-laden e-mails or client alerts to a reporter. Legal language is only appropriate when the reporter is a non-practicing lawyer and the target audience is other attorneys. Whether you want to reach professionals who work in the jewelry industry or parents of children with special needs, your communications with the reporter should be written in accessible language to gain the interest of that publication’s readers.

Don’t ask for an advance look at the quote or the article. Instead, wrap-up the interview by saying, “We’ve covered a lot of material here, some of it rather technical. If there’s anything you’d like to go over with me before you submit the article, please let me know.” At that point, the reporter may agree; she may offer to email you a draft later or call you back to clarify a complex point you discussed.

Don’t expect a quote to survive the editor’s pen. Journalists are under extreme pressure to turn their stories around quickly. Comments made by a third party, or what one veteran reporter termed the floating head quote, are the first things editors cut at press-time. Nonetheless, the reporter will likely remember the quote and conversation and keep you in mind for future stories.

Congratulations. You were quoted in a timely news article. 

Be sure to share the news story. Post a PDF of the news story on your firm’s website, once you have received permission or license to do so, and save that link. Include it in your social media activity, which will drive visitors to your website. 

Remember, reporters call the attorneys they know and rarely call someone they have never heard of. If an attorney is likely to be quoted in a particular news story, aim to be that source by following these do’s and don’ts as you build solid relationships with journalists.

Janet Falk is Chief Strategist at Falk Communications and Research in New York. She develops and implements proactive media relations strategy for law firms to attract clients and to put pressure on opposing counsel in litigation. Contact her at Janet@JanetLFalk.com or 212-677-5770.

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