“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.” ― Jess C. Scott, Literary Heroin (Gluttony): A Twilight Parody
I’ll start with a story from a while back…
It was a pretty normal Sunday for me. I woke up early for my morning run, prepared breakfast for the kids, and was getting ready for some much needed yard work. At 11am my cell phone rang and a CBS news TV producer was on the line: “We need you at the TV studio in one hour, for a breaking news story. Can you make it?”
There was not much time for deliberation. I showered, changed, and before I knew it, I was already on my way to the studio for the taping deadline. At the end of the day, the producer was happy, the reporter was excited, and I was exhausted.
(Here is that news piece: “Attorney Weighs in on Surge of Immigrant Children”.)
Traditional media coverage is really important in elevating your brand and setting you apart from your competitors. Media exposure can help expedite the growth of your law firm rapidly. The benefits the right media coverage can bring in are substantial.
Unfortunately, most law firms struggle to decide how to get noticed by traditional media. When I refer to traditional media, I suggest that you make yourself part of the story in newspapers, television news briefs, and radio shows.
Speaking of media, a lot of law firms and small businesses seem to only concentrate on social media. Though I am the most loyal evangelist for social media marketing, Facebook in particular; traditional media still possess a crucial role in the overall marketing domination plan.
If you want more than staying barely alive among your competition (we are talking about domination here), you must understand the secrets of traditional media attraction. Not only can positive media coverage expand your client base, make you an authority in your niche, and generate referrals, it can also be achieved at a low cost to the advantage of your business; because this is not paid media, but earned media.
Here are 4 steps on how your law practice can draw the maximum amount of media coverage.
1. Always Be Super Available
Lawyers and entrepreneurs are always very busy – our top priority is unquestionably our business development. But in order to produce frequent TV and radio appearances, you must be ready when the producers call, like how I was when I was in my pajamas that Sunday. Most news stories must be released within hours, and reporters expect immediate cooperation, both on the information part of the story as well as a physical appearance in studio.
If I had been unavailable when the CBS producer called, they would have moved on right away to the next contender on the list. It would have been my biggest loss for missing the opportunity to give commentary on a burning hot legal topic, which falls under my expertise. Of course, nobody wakes up with their makeup and hair done, ready to go any minute, but being mentally prepared like a hungry shark waiting for its next meal will land you a delicious media exposure opportunity someday and many more in the future.
2. Study Your Audience
Do you know who you are talking to, like what your typical client’s media consumption channels are?
Once you have that information, it will be easier to aim for the right medium. Start by following and researching the media outlets that you want to be featured in. Building a connection with your local stations’ producers and hosts is a great way to get your foot in the door. There is so much rivalry in media for news reporters, in terms of timeliness, newsworthiness, and the excitement factor. As an attention seeker, you’ll want to create an event, spearhead a benefit, or do something unusual to direct the limelight toward yourself and your business as a whole.
When the Defense of Marriage Act was repealed, we tried to be on local stations’ radar. I called several local producers and told them that we were going to stand in front of the City Hall and offer free Green Card support service to any new same-sex couples that had gotten married that week. Although our plan was prohibited and called to a halt by the city, the news producer kept coming back to me for comments and made me his go-to guy on this story following the overturn.
3. Create Newsworthy Content
We are well aware that news outlets want breaking stories, not promotional materials. How can we do that? Through a blog that is often updated with relevant content. Blogs are search engine friendly for reporters looking for stories and leads.
Utilize Google Alerts so when an interesting story breaks, write up and publish your own analysis. Last year, when Russia imposed a ban on adoption by Americans, the controversy and outcry sparked had been through the roof. I rode the waves and posted a few thought-provoking blog articles on the subject. One of the local news stations read my article and decided to invite me to the news studio as a legal expert on the matter. Nothing beats television to boost your firm’s reputation.
4. Connect With Journalists on Social Media
PR Daily says,“The most reliable way to reach a journalist is with an @ mention on Twitter..You may or may not get a response, but you’re pretty reliably going to be seen.” Therefore, I encourage you to follow reporters on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Twitter is by far the best source for getting reporters’ eyeballs. It can be the sole purpose of your Twitter account activation. You can re-tweet content on a regular basis, jump in on conversations, and most importantly, respond to any urgent requests reporters put out immediately. You can pitch stories on Twitter. Personalize your pitch — and don’t spam. This is also the quickest way to get blocked. Your pitch should be grammatically correct or you will lose credibility in a flash.
Facebook is also a good place to connect with the media. Many reporters have an official page on Facebook and accept private messages as well. One of our pro bono cases that garnered national media attention was initially started on Facebook. I had a personal connection with a Newsweek reporter who was looking to run a story on a remarkable young athlete that was detained and was about to be deported. He wanted to find out what might happen to her so she reached out to me via Facebook. After few message exchanges, I decided to take the case and helped the reporter get the story out very quickly. The story later went on ESPN and a few other national outlets, whose reporters all reached out to me for the follow-up. Facebook allowed my effect to grow tenfold.
Social media has initiated incredible opportunities for lawyers to forge a brand and package themselves. On the other hand, the combination of social and traditional media is the recipe for total domination online and offline. While used effectively, Twitter and other social media platforms can help orchestrate relationships, facilitate networking with the media, and construct a solid reputation. If you are willing to spend the time and position yourself as a media magnet, from there only sky is the limit.