Establishing your brand can be difficult, especially if you are an attorney but it is essential if you want to build a successful law office. There are so many law firms and solo-practitioners, you must try to rise up through the search engine results, while competing against others in your industry that have been there for years before you. So what is one of the best ways to help establish your online presence?
That’s right. Through media outreach.
Media outreach is the practice of contacting news outlets with a pitch in the hope they use you for a story. It can be time consuming and not on the top of the priority list for lawyers who are already strapped for time.
Despite the effort you must put into media outreach in order to see a return, there are a few things you can do to help increase your odds of securing a placement. The better you get at media outreach, the easier it will be to obtain placements and the less time you will need to spend doing it.
Here are four of the top pieces of advice I would give to any attorney looking to find success through media outreach.
Networking to Build Your Relationships and Contact Lists
One of the best ways to get recognized by media outlets is to establish a relationship with them. Quality over quantity applies here as you really only want the contacts that you feel will take the time to read your pitches.
So how to do you that? Through networking.
“The number one tip I give is to reach out to the media and cultivate them,” says David Johnson, from Strategic Vision PR Group. “Offer to be a resource and sounding board for the reporters. Reporters are always seeking expert sources.”
Notice what Johnson is saying. You are not necessarily reaching out to get your name in the news. You are reaching out to help support them in case they have questions or need advice on a story they are writing.
Reporters are not experts in all the fields they report on, so having a sounding board such as yourself goes a long way in building a relationship. It also makes them more likely to contact you when they are looking to quote someone for a news story.
When networking, it is important to offer your assistance by building your referral network as opposed to looking for a favor. This is a huge mistake marketers make. A great way an attorney can do this is to find a recent news story – I mean a hot news story about something that just happened locally. Then, contact local media outlets and tell them if they need any clarification about the law that applies in the case to let you know and you can point them in the right direction.
Do you see what I did there? I didn’t offer to give them a quote. I offered to give them what they needed to answer their questions and did not make it about me wanting to be quoted in a story.
Make sure that people also know how to find you. This is one of the most important aspects of networking and media outreach, especially when choosing the right social media platform to brand yourself.
“The #1 thing to consider when marketing is to know who your audience is and where they go to find you,” says Vinnie Fisher, founder of Fully Accountable, who left his law practice in 2007 to pursue entrepreneurship full-time. “If you are a lawyer, the best social media platform to be on would be LinkedIn, where you can connect with other professionals and post industry topics that will provoke a reaction.”
Establish Your Authority
This is one of the best pieces of advice that can be given to people engaging in media outreach. You cannot just make a pitch and expect to be taken seriously. You must first establish yourself as an authority in your field.
Why would a journalist want to use you for a story if you’re not known as an expert in your field?
One way to do this is to write articles on your website and also guest post for other websites in your industry. “Writing is a great way to get your name out there,” says Lawrence J. Buckfire, founder of DrugLawsuitSource.com, who has also contributed to publications such as Forbes. “You cannot just reach out to media outlets and claim to be an authority. You need to show them that others consider you an authority as well.”
One way to do this is to build up writing profiles by guest posting. You must also keep fresh content on your blog as it shows you are keeping up with trends in the industry.
If you want to establish your authority, you cannot do it part-time. Attorneys are busy but still need to make the time to establish themselves, according to Frank Strong, Founder & President of Sword and the Script Media.
“If the media is important to you, your firm and career, then you need to make time for it,” says Strong. “You can’t just turn it off and on because you are busy. It doesn’t work that way. This stuff is cumulative like a snowball. Set time to write, comment and blog – and be ruthlessly disciplined about sticking to it.”
Customizing Your Pitch for the Media Outlet
If you do not know the medium you are reaching out to, then don’t do it. Blanket emails with cookie cutter wording simply won’t cut it.
“My best advice for attorneys interested in pitching the media is to take the time to fully customize your story idea,” says Marketing Communications Strategist, Marnie Grumbach, from Fluent IMC. “This means taking the time to research and familiarize yourself with the publication’s content, develop an article idea that both demonstrates your areas of legal expertise and educates its readers. Address trends or timely issues (ideally with stats to back them up) related to the readership’s industry. Blasting a cookie cutter pitch to a massive media list is unlikely to yield results. Customize, customize, customize!”
As an example, don’t just reach out to a local news agency and offer to give them advice on “handling denied insurance claims during a disaster response.” That’s specific, but not really newsworthy for a news outlet.
Instead, pitch them something like “what claims are likely to be denied in the recent Louisiana flooding, the worst disaster in the US since Hurricane Sandy.”
You see that you are not being generic with that pitch. You personalized it so you can provide your expertise (assuming you deal with insurance claims) and also work it into recent news which the local news agency is likely to be talking about.
Use All Available Forms of Contact
Using all available resources means more than blasting press releases to everyone on your contact list. It also means using different mediums of contact other than email and even platforms that connect you to sources.
One platform I love is Help-a-Reporter-Out (HARO). In fact, it is where the quotes for this article came from. It is a free service where you can respond to a journalist’s request for sources and wind up getting quoted in major publications. I’m not the only one who recommends it.
“I can’t tell you how much good press I’ve landed simply by answering reporter queries,” said Eric Branter of Scribblrs.com, when describing his use of HARO. “And you see tons of reporters looking for attorney sources to quote.”
One thing I always tell my clients is even though I am actively engaging in outreach on their behalf, they should still utilize free services such as HARO. This can help supplement what I am doing and lead to even more press coverage.
If you want to get a leg up on everyone else pitching media outlets, you can always try an old fashioned method that most have abandoned. “Sometimes picking up the telephone is the best way to connect,” says Brian Gomez of Elite Legal Marketing. “Most people just fire off an email and hope for the best. Following up with a quick telephone call never hurts and also helps build your connections for future pitches.”
Final Thoughts on Media Outreach
Media outreach is a science but not one that is too difficult to understand. Make sure to plan in the beginning by building valuable contacts through networking. You can then customize your pitch for specific outlets and follow-up until you get the placements you are looking for. Establishing yourself as an authority in the field is a strong way to help with your media outreach efforts.
What tips and tricks have you used to help establish your brand through media outreach?