Once a reporter has responded to a law firm’s pitch, the subject matter expert must understand his or her rights in the interview process.
Before an interview, ask about the context of the story. Ask if a list of questions can be reviewed ahead of time (sometimes a reporter will provide this). Do some background research on the reporter, to determine the tone of the reporter’s usual work. Find out who else might be interviewed for this particular story. Do some research to understand these sources’ points of view.
Ask for permission to videotape or record the interview yourself or, alternatively, for a tape/copy of the interview. There may be a charge associated.
During the interview, an interviewee has the right to courteous treatment. A subject matter expert can refuse to answer questions that are pejorative or insulting, but should remain courteous when doing so. A legal expert can refuse to answer questions that involve client confidentiality, conflicts or litigation, but can and should refer the interviewer to another source who might be able to provide the answer.
An interview subject has the right to request that difficult or confusing questions be re-phrased. The interviewee who is not sure of something should always be comfortable saying, “I don’t know that answer right now, but I will find out for you.” Then, get back to the reporter as soon as possible.
Finally, a legal expert should never ask to review an article before it goes to print. The expert can offer to do so in order to help the reporter, but should never make a direct request.
Lawyers and law firms are often needlessly concerned about working with the media. With a clear understanding of what is newsworthy, a list of qualified subject matter experts, the right pitch to the right reporter and an understanding of the interview process, media relations can be a great way for law firms to earn an enhanced reputation within a targeted marketplace.
This is part five of a five-part article. For the full article: