How to Effectively and Ethically Perform Media Outreach

Lawyer speaking to reporters outside of a courtroom
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on September 25, 2019 12:29 PM

You may have noticed there are plenty of legal issues to report on lately. Fact-checks are increasingly popular. Articles that were traditionally considered too in-depth or technical to make it into the paper or news broadcasts are proliferating online. We are seeing the law under public scrutiny like never before.

With this trend comes opportunity. In marketing your firm, it always helps to get a quote or two on a legal topic in your wheelhouse in the press. Better yet is coverage of one of your cases. This can help generate new clients, get referrals, and even attract new talent to your firm.

But how to go about getting mentioned in the press? Unless you represent a celebrity, it usually takes a conscious effort and focus. Below are some quick tips on how to start getting your name out there in the media without violating ethical rules.

Effective Media Outreach

Media outreach generally takes three forms.

  • You can call or contact a media outlet directly about a story.
  • You can issue a press release.
  • You can send a media publication a short executive summary or profile about why a reporter should talk to you on a given subject, now or in the future.

If you choose the latter route, keep in mind that what you want to highlight about yourself isn’t necessarily what you’d put on a resume. Instead, focus on how you can help the media outlet sell itself. Why are you the lawyer to talk to? What do you know about the subject that others don’t? Why is your insight valuable?

It is important to avoid writing an advertisement or cover letter in press releases or when contacting media, as well. A short summary of your law firm’s focus is appropriate, but it shouldn’t be a direct advertisement. Focus on the wide appeal of the case. Why do people want to read this? Appeal to emotions when possible. You may have a newsworthy case, or just filed a newsworthy complaint, but you’ll want to make it clear why the public will be interested.

Ethical Media Outreach

While press mentions are great marketing, each state has unique rules about what you can and cannot say in press releases and other media. For example, just like you can’t call yourself an expert in your advertising, you can’t call yourself an expert in a press release. If reporters are calling to get your take on something, feel free to suggest how they should refer to you in a way that meets your state’s ethical guidelines.

ABA Model Rules 7.1, 7.2, and 7.4 apply to press releases and media profiles. These rules govern communications about services, advertising, and specialization. Failure to comply with your state’s rules of professional conduct in media can lead to ethical violations. As one example, in 2005 the Ohio Supreme Court prohibited an attorney from participating in a local public service program called “Ask the Expert,” since the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct 7.4 prohibits attorneys from presenting themselves as experts.

Worth the Effort

While it can be difficult to get a news mention while abiding by rules of professional conduct, the payoff can be significant. If you have more questions on how to manage press releases and media relations, make sure to check out the related resources below.

Related Resources: