It’s called publicity. When you or your firm gets mentioned in the media, and better if you are quoted, it’s instant credibility. And it’s FREE (unless you hire a PR agency to help)

Regular advertising is less effective IMHO because you are writing the copy and, of course, it is self-serving. Further it costs you money. When someone else says things about you and hopefully quotes you, it is more likely to be believed.

We all believe what we read in the newspaper or magazine, right?  “If I read it, it must be true” is what Larry Smith and Richard Levick opined (somewhat facetiously I’m sure) in a meditation contained in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing and Communications Professionals. For more on that meditation look at my post “Publicity vs. Advertising” for the full quote, and for more about the difference between the two.

Actually, we all know better, but there certainly is more credibility given to what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself. You may ask, how do I get this here free “advertising”? Well, you need to befriend a reporter or editor, as I suggest in my “Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 8 – Take a Reporter to Lunch.” It’s a start and my post gives some suggestions and cautions on how to go about building a relationship with a reporter.

So, it is better if you spend your time talking to reporters and editors rather than those in the business who sell advertising. Accordingly it’s a good idea to get to know and develop relationships with reporters and editors. Your time and (lunch) money will be better spent.

Don’t be a snob, and all PR needs to be personal.

That’s it.

Okay, maybe a bit more detail is warranted. The first tip: don’t treat a reporter from an unfamiliar publication as someone to shun, since you may regret it one day when he or she is with a major newspaper.  That comes from yesterday’s marketing meditation from my friends Larry Smith and Richard Levick at Levick Strategic Communications; and states:

“Don’t snub reporters because you’ve never heard of their publications.  They have a funny way of eventually landing at The Wall Street Journal.”

The second tip comes from today’s meditation:

“All news is personal.  The media was never all that interested in unmanned space flights.”

I never thought about that, but it is true. So, remember that real news is about people not your firm or your new location, or cases handled.  It’s about those lawyers who handled those cases.  It’s “personal,” so make sure your public relations thrust is about people.

Both tips are from Levick’s book 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals.


Reminder:  If you haven’t yet voted for your favorite legal blog on ABA Journal Blawg 100 Amici, you have until September 7 to do so.  To nominate, go to this page. Again, nominations are due no later than September 7, 2012.

Thank you for your consideration, Tom.

Developing relationships with reporters and editors is a worthwhile goal for lawyers. Your purpose is obvious. By getting to know media contacts (general, business and legal), they are more likely to call you when they need a lawyer’s perspective; and there is no better way to be seen as an expert than by being quoted in a credible publication or interviewed on TV.

Reporters are always looking for good sources of information, particularly when they are covering a case or on deadline with the latest, hottest breaking news. They won’t think of calling you unless they know who you are. So, invite a reporter or editor to breakfast or lunch in order to get to know one another.

Start with your local media – broadcast (radio, TV) and print (daily, weekly or monthly newspapers and magazines). Find out what their hot buttons are, and offer to help them understand the legal implications of a story they are working on, even if you end up referring them occasionally to other lawyers on a particular topic. By developing a friendship with reporters and editors, your chances of being called are better when they need a legal angle on a story; especially when you get a reputation for getting back to them promptly, and respect the pressures they are under. Some reporters prefer lunch to breakfast, but you won’t know that until you call them.

Some tips and precautions include:

  • Return reporter’s call immediately, if not sooner;
  • Don’t assume anything you say is on background or "off the record", unless you and reporter agree in advance;
  • If you don’t have an immediate answer, tell them you will get back to them and do so ASAP (remember that deadline thing);
  • Ask when is their deadline (reporters for weeklies are more flexible than dailies);
  • Don’t reveal client confidences; and
  • Don’t talk about a client’s matter without their permission, even if it is a matter of public record (clients can get ornery about such things).


The reason public relations is so much more effective than advertising is because of the credibility factor. What is said in an ad, which you pay for, is controlled by you, whereas what is said about you (hopefully in a favorable light) in the media by an independent third party is free advertising for you and your firm. And, since you want good press, make friends with reporters.

One way to do that is to quickly respond to requests for comment. (Of course, not commenting on any client matters without prior approval). You could become a general source for legal related stories and someone a reporter can rely on when they on a tight deadline. With that thought in mind, I love today’s tidbit from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications:

“Two journalists getting married were in such a hurry to meet deadlines that all they had time for was ‘I…’ Remember that when a reporter calls you for comment.”

Their advice is not just for PR professionals. Any lawyer can apply their meditations to their own experiences, and in this situation especially. If you want to become recognized as an expert, and get “free” media coverage, remember to return a journalist’s call ASAHP (as soon as humanly possible). Read that as immediately, even if only to tell them you’ll have to research the issue and get back to them. Always ask when their deadline is. They will come to rely on you, and that is a good thing.

Getting favorable press is a very effective way in raising any lawyer’s profile.  And that is good for developing business. Among my top ten marketing tips, I’ve put “Take a Reporter to Lunch” as No.8.

This tip came to mind when I saw tomorrow’s meditation in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick.

“Meet reporters and journalists personally. It’s easier to get good press from people who know you.”

That kinda says it all.

Some lawyers not trained in business still miss the distinction between various terms used in conjunction with the general term “marketing.” Marketing is a process not an activity. It consists of many things that together make up marketing – including public relations and advertising, which simply put are tools of marketing.

The main difference between “PR” and “advertising” is that the former is free advertising (except for the PR agency costs involved, if any) in the form of publicity (being quoted in articles, part of a feature articles, etc.) and are usually written by someone else. Advertising, on the other hand, is paid for publicity in the form of ads. Clearly, the former is more valuable and credible than the latter.

Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI, a public relations firm, has an article on her web site, that I came across via LinkedIn that futher clarifies the distinctions between these terms. Take a look. 

Establishing good relations with reporters and editors is always a good thing. It is also one of my top ten best practices (check out No. 8 – “Take a Reporter to Lunch”). Press coverage increases your credibility and is free vs. advertising, which both requires out-of pocket costs, and by its nature is less credible because it’s you talking vs. a reporter quoting you.

In 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Richard S. Levick and Larry Smith of Levick Strategic Communications, the meditations for today and tomorrow contain two excellent points in dealing with reporters:

August 20: “Don’t ever promise an exclusive without delivering;” and

August 21: “Don’t snub reporters because you’ve never heard of their publications. They have a funny way of eventually landing at The Wall Street Journal.”

Good advice if you want to build solid relationships with reporters.

Law firms have asked me whether they should undertake an advertising or public relations campaign. My response can be both or neither. The reason is that until a firm has done the basics involving strategic marketing planning, either or both could be a total waste of money.

If a firm doesn’t know where it wants to end up, who its target audience should be, and what clients it really wants to serve, then any advertising or public relation campaign is premature.

Furthermore, firms need to understand the significant differences between advertising and PR. Paramjit Mahli, who may have a slight bias (as do I), addresses the distinction between the two on her Profiting With Public Relations blog, and is worth taking a look at.

As to which is better, my bias comes down on the side of PR; but advertising can also be useful, especially in raising a law firm’s profile with intended audiences. However, the latter does not make my Top 10 Marketing Tips for developing business. As I see it the three main differences include:


Public Relations

Paid for (and can be expensive)

Free (except for PR agency costs)

Firm specifies message

Message controlled by reporter/editor

Comes across as sales pitch, which it is

More credible, as sales pitch is made by others

Whether one or the other, or both, is right for your law firm will depend, in my judgment, on where your firm is in terms of its marketing and business development program.