The second step in a successful media policy is preparing the experts within a law firm who will be the media sources to flesh out a particular story idea. After all, it does no good to promise a good story idea to the media and then fail to deliver a credible source. Once that happens a few times, a firm will lose credibility for any story idea it pitches going forward.
Once the firm has a good story idea, determine which lawyers are best-qualified to speak with the media. They should be lawyers who actually work at the cutting edge in the subject area, but also lawyers who know how to work with the media — and are willing to do so. Since editors and reporters must meet deadlines, the lawyer-experts must be available to respond quickly to media calls.
Before pitching a story idea, carefully prepare the selected expert or experts so that they can abide by firm, legal ethics and media rules without getting flustered. Know what the message is. Anticipate what a reporter might ask – including negative questions. Devise a number of concise quotes or “talking points” and practice them ahead of time. Be prepared to fit the story into a larger context.
Make sure lawyer-experts understand that a reporter in search of balance in a news story will talk to other experts as well. Almost always, the lawyer will be just part of the story, not the entire story. Be prepared with a list of other contacts and resources on the subject to provide to a reporter. A reporter will always appreciate and return to sources that help them write a good, well-researched story.
Law firms should create and distribute to the media a series of “subject matter expert guides.” A guide can be prepared for each lawyer who is willing and able to interact with the media. It includes a one-paragraph bio as well as a list of newsworthy story ideas or areas of interest a particular lawyer can address, such as marijuana laws, homeowners associations or eminent domain.
A subject matter expert guide includes a photo, and is also a good place to list the lawyer’s management role within the law firm and willingness to speak out on legal industry topics, such as associate pay, lateral moves of partners or law firm mergers. Expert guides also serve as great internal tools for generating ideas for blog posts, alerts, white papers or tweets.
Before speaking with the media, lawyers should be familiar with the legal ethics rules governing profession-specific issues like client confidentiality, conflicts and what can and cannot be said when discussing a case in litigation.
This is part three of a five-part article. For full article: