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On this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy Alvarez interviews Patrick Smith, a reporter who covers the business of law for The American Lawyer and its affiliated publications. Patrick keys us in on the best ways lawyers and marketers should approach media outlets with newsworthy stories. Tune in to learn strategies that will help get your stories published.

Patrick’s beat includes legal marketing, business development, diversity and inclusion issues, and deal work and law firm strategy. He previously wrote for the New York Daily News, The Bridge and NBC New York, and was a video journalist for NY1 and producer for Sports Illustrated and GOLF.com. He won an Emmy in 2016 for his coverage of the 2016 Olympics for NBC Sports. You can connect with Patrick on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Podcast Show Notes

What do the law firms that seem to get the most coverage for their media matters do that is different?

Law firm stories that get published are those that have a hook. Media outlets don’t often want to cover stories that are relevant to just one particular firm, but rather those that indicate a trend or pair with other news in the existing cycle.

What are some of the common mistakes that you get from people trying to pitch you a story or trying to get you to write about them or their law firm?

Oftentimes the Am Law 200 firms have seasoned marketing and communications professionals and they know what they’re doing.

But, there are circumstances where people reach out with topics that are way too generalized. When a story is too broad, it’s hard to wrap your head around how you would write the story. If I can’t figure out how to write something, I’m going to move on to something else.

Furthermore, there’s also the timing of the story. Most outlets like The American Lawyer can put something together pretty quickly – particularly if it’s a breaking news story. But if it’s something with substance and you reach out to the media outlets, you know, two hours before you release that information, then you’re probably not going to get the type of comprehensive coverage that you want. 

How can one tell if a media outlet is going to be interested in a story they pitch? What elements should a communications professional or lawyer include? 

I can’t speak for everybody, but for me, I appreciate when someone reaches out with a short and concise email explaining the topic. Instead of sending over the entire press release with every minor detail about the story, which of course will be necessary at some point. Short and concise gets my attention. I don’t want to read a 4,000 word email.

How do you find your sources? Do you use social media to look for stories or find additional voices for your story?

Yes, I am constantly searching through Twitter.

Are relationships with outlets important? What about with individual reporters? 

Definitely. I routinely have calls with marketing professionals and attorneys that are simply just catch ups. We may not have worked on anything together in a couple of months but I still like to schedule 20 mins every couple of weeks to hear what’s going on in their practice area and learn of any trends.

Just staying in touch with reporters keeps you top-of-mind. 

Should marketing professionals or lawyers reach out to reporters and introduce themselves? How does that process work?

Yes, my advice is to get to know your local reporter. Just reach out. For instance, send an email that is as simple as, “Hey, do you want to do a quick intro chat?” These little actions can go a long way as you start to build relationships up over time.

Do you have one word of advice you would give to our listeners about how to get coverage or get enhanced coverage – not just from the American lawyer but from any publication out there?

Developing relationships with reporters goes a long way. It’s naive to think that personal relationships don’t matter.

Takeaway

Whether you’re looking to raise your public profile, or hoping to get the word out about a new launch, media coverage is one of the best ways to get your law firm noticed. Unfortunately though, obtaining press coverage isn’t a simple matter of firing off pitches and hoping for the best. Like all good things, successful media publicity is the result of careful planning and relationship building. Whether you’re a lawyer or a marketing or communications professional, take Patrick’s advice and get to know your local reporters at the big legal publications.

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