• Jana Schilder

5 ways to use Public Relations to make your law firm stand out during Covid-19

Some law firms are using the pandemic to both thrive and give back. That's smart PR.




Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, when one day is bleaker than the previous one, savvy law firms are using Public Relations to do good, while still doing well. With enough technology and cybersecurity, almost all lawyers in law firms around the world can work from home. The same cannot be said of healthcare workers, logistics and transportation workers, or the farmers in our food supply.

Public Relations is a reputation building discipline. Public Relations has four goals: 1) to establish, 2) to promote, 3) to protect and 4) sometimes, to salvage the reputation of your law firm or organization. Read more about Media Relations for Law Firms. Media Relations is the sub-discipline of getting lawyers quoted in news articles of mainstream media and important business publications. As great as social media is—and as challenging as producing news is in 2020 with falling advertising revenues—the fact remains: most mainstream media still have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of readers (or viewers) that lawyers and law firms covet. Public Relations professionals work with reporters, editors, photographers and producers to bring stories of interest to their respective audiences. Here are 5 ways to use Public Relations to position your law firm as a leader during Covid-19: 1. Every story pitch must have a Covid-19 angle. Everywhere you look, there is only one story dominating headlines around the word: the Covid-19 pandemic. Precious few other news stories are getting through. Even reporters who cover areas other than business have been conscripted to work on Covid-19 articles. In fact, The New York Times has temporarily suspended publishing its Sports and Travel sections. Don't have a Covid-19 angle? Sit on that story pitch for 90 or 120 days, until businesses get up and running again. A PR agency that specializes in working with lawyers and law firms can find an interesting and legitimate Covid-19 "hook." Law firm practice areas that are well positioned to comment on Covid-19 solutions on behalf of law firm clients, governments, and the public-at-large include: Corporate/Commercial Law (contracts, litigation); Employment Law; Labour Law; Real Estate; Construction; Taxation; Government and Emergency Measures; Wills and Estates; and Family Law. And there are Covid-19 links to Criminal Law and cybersecurity, too.

2. The over-arching principle of "in the public interest" is the heart of Public Relations. A story becomes more interesting to a reporter, editor, or TV or radio producer if it affects hundreds of thousands or millions of people. These are so-called "service articles," that is, articles that are "of service" (or helpful) to the vast majority of people affected by Covid-19. Looking at it another way, reporters, editors, and producers are proxies for their audiences—readers and viewers. So, pitch the media on what is "in the public interest." When law firms hire us at The Legal A Team to represent their interests to the media, our media training includes universal truths: First, you get quoted because of what you are willing to say, not because you have hired a PR agency. In PR, we open the door, but our clients need to walk through the door by saying the right things. Second, we help you craft so-called soundbites (or Key Messages) that are both substantive and have style and flair. Its what you say—and how you say it. In other words, you don't get quoted because you hired a Public Relations professional. You get quoted because: you were bold; you spoke Truth to Power; you said what no one else was willing to say; you took the contrarian view; and you helped to move the legal profession forward. "Motherhood-and-apple-pie" or "me too!" statements do not get the media's attention. 3. The question that all reporters worldwide are looking for answers to is: how? The "W5" of journalism are giving readers the answers to these questions: who, what, where, when, why, and "How" for how. During a pandemic, the most important question is: how? How will we help people who have been laid off or furloughed? How to put money in people's bank accounts, fast? How are we going to get a vaccine? How are we going to kick-start the economy? Because lawyers are trained negotiators, they are in a great position to help both their corporate clients and governments to answer the question: "How do we collectively exit Covid-19 and get back on track?" So, if your law firm has been working on solutions that help answer the question "How?", now is a great time to pitch the media and get credit for your thinking and actions. 4. Keep media pitches mercifully short. The purpose of the media pitch is to provide just enough detail to have a reporter, editor, or producer call or email you back with a request for an interview. A good media pitch should be about 150 to 250 words, and make it clear who the subject matter expert is. It should provide contact information, including mobile phone numbers. Reporters are always on deadline. You must call them back within minutes or, at most, a few hours. News happens today; history happened yesterday. Three days later or next week are not good enough; you will have missed your opportunity to be interviewed and quoted. Reporters are getting even more emails than usual now, in the ballpark of 500 to 800 emails per day is typical. As a result, much of a reporter's mail goes unread. Think carefully about what to put in the "Subject" line; it may be the only thing that the reporter actually sees. Your headline or email subject line must make reporters understand why your pitch matters to their audiences.

5. Figure out "where the puck is going" and pitch those stories to media, too. Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky famously said that figuring out "where the puck was going" down the ice was the key to his success. In other words, where is the story likely to go next? Does your firm have expertise in how to solve landlord-tenant issues where 60 per cent of renters cannot pay their rent? Does your law firm have expertise in how to handle construction projects during the quarantine? Many lawyers and law firms have the same goals as news media and journalists: to solve Covid-19 problems in a speedy fashion and with the least harm.

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