For more than 25 years, Janet Falk has worked as a communications professional in-house and at public relations agencies,...
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business...
Your firm has a lot to offer, but does your community even know you exist? Getting into the news can do a lot to increase your visibility and bring you new clients. But, how exactly do you attract the attention of a reporter? In this edition of Jared Correia’s Legal Toolkit, Janet Falk offers up a press coverage playbook for helping lawyers connect with the media.
Janet Falk is a media, PR, and marketing consultant at Falk Communications and Research.
The Legal Toolkit
How to Get Press Coverage for Your Law Firm
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm with your host Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hello friends. Welcome to another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit Podcast here on the Legal Talk Network. If you are looking for the Halcyon days of 2019 before you even knew what a murder hornet was, well yes, so am I. If you are a returning listener, welcome back. If you are a first-time listener, welcome home and since I have not actually recorded a podcast, a new one, in about three months, and for the year 2020 A.D., bite me.
As always, I’m your show host Jared Correia and in addition to casting this pod, I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms. You can find out more about us at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc. which offers chatbot software built specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
Lastly, if you want to listen to me on another podcast, I do record one with my wife, which is called The Lobby List, and we talk about family travel. Check us out on iTunes.
But here on Legal Toolkit Podcast, we provide you with a new tool each episode to add to your own legal toolkit, so that your practices will become more and more like best practices.
And in this episode, we are going to talk about how to get press coverage for your law firm. So let’s break up this horrible news cycle shall we? Now, before I introduce today’s guests, let us take a moment to thank our sponsors.
We would like to thank Alert Communications for sponsoring this podcast. If any law firm is looking for call, intake or retainer services available 24/7, 365, just call 866-827-5568.
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All right, go buy those products. My guest today is, drum roll please, Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research. Janet is a public relations and marketing communications consultant for lawyers and other business professionals and she is based in New York City.
Welcome to the big show, Janet.
Janet Falk: Jared, I am so excited to be here and speak to the attorneys and friends of The Legal Toolkit. Thank you for inviting me.
Jared Correia: Oh, my pleasure. I know we’ve had this on the books for a little bit, so I am glad to finally do this with you. So I always try to start off with an icebreaker question and you do some interesting work in Manhattan. You volunteer a lot in terms of Roosevelt Island, so I am not sure if everybody knows what that is. Can you talk a little bit about what Roosevelt Island is, the history behind it, and then what are your current efforts surrounding it?
Janet Falk: Sure. Roosevelt Island is the small narrow island between Manhattan and Queens in the East River. It became better known in 2015 when former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her campaign here for president and it became even better known when Cornell University and Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, opened a campus for graduate studies in technology in 2017.The island really has an interesting history of innovation and technology, which did not start in 2017. It housed the first poor house in New York City, a penitentiary, a lunatic asylum, and hospitals. They were all built here in the middle of the 19th century to keep those social ills away from everybody else, and this is where the innovation starts. Roosevelt Island is home to the Smallpox Hospital built in 1856. It was the first hospital to quarantine patients with smallpox which was a highly infectious disease, something I think we can all relate to now.
Jared Correia: Right.
Janet Falk: And when you think about income inequality, the wealthy patients were on a different floor from the poor patients, if you can believe that. Now, nearby for a different hospital was Strecker Memorial Laboratory, which was the first pathology laboratory in the United States, started in 1892.
Now, moving forward a little more quickly, the first residents moved here in 1975 and disabled residents lived in the community in specially-designed apartments, so they were integrated with everybody else. Many people know of Roosevelt Island because of the aerial tram which connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan. It was started in 1976 and if you have seen the movie Spider-Man, then you know what I am talking about. It is the first commuter aerial tram in the United States. There is only one other and that is in Portland in 2007, which is a much shorter ride.
Nowadays, 15,000 people live on Roosevelt Island. There is a public school up to grade 8. There is a supermarket, seven restaurants, a drugstore, and some small shops, but if you want to buy shoes or you want to buy a sofa, you have to go off island. As for my activities on the island, I am an elected member of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, which is like a town council, only we have a very limited budget and I am also a consultant to the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, which is how I know so much about the history of the island.
Jared Correia: You may know more about the history of the island than anyone, right? I am impressed.
Janet Falk: Yeah, well the president knows more, believe me and I am also an active member of the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation. So there you have it, Roosevelt Island suburban living in the heart of New York City.
Jared Correia: That’s awesome. I appreciate that. I love it when we could do historical stuff here. That was really useful. All right, so now let us talk about your stuff that you do. I alluded to this in the open, but like the news cycle is pretty disturbing right now, right? Not smallpox, but we’ve got the coronavirus still going on as we speak. So tell me why do lawyers want to be in the news cycle now and the follow-up question I have to that is, is there an effective way to like break through that cycle of negativity to talk effectively about what you do as a business professional?
Janet Falk: Jared, I would say that it is always a good time to be in the news because if you are not promoting your practice, your insights, and your services, who do you think is going to do that for you, right?
Jared Correia: That is a good point.
Janet Falk: It’s always a good time to be in the news. Now, today, people are very sensitive and they want to show that they are sympathetic to the raging crises before us, COVID-19, unemployment, poor economic conditions, racial inequality, need I go on. And you don’t want to seem that you are unaware that these issues are bubbling up in society, but you also want to be careful that you’re not just paying lip service. If you do not have something substantive to add to the conversation, it is okay to be silent about the conversation on those major crises confronting us.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Janet Falk: And people who have a practice that relate to those issues, of course they should be speaking out about the services they provide, the solutions they offer, and how they can help individuals or business owners, business executives and corporations, anyone who is being affected by these conditions. I ask you, how will potential clients and referral sources learn that these attorneys are ready to help them? Only if they see them on TV, hear them on the radio, or read about them in the news.
So here’s an example, say you are an employment attorney, you can share tips on how you can document that someone has been laid off from their job because they refuse to work in an environment where their employer was not providing safe conditions. So that’s a great way for an employment attorney to be talking about what he can do for people in distress on the plaintiff side.
Now, if you are known as a source who can comment on civil rights cases, for people who have experienced racial discrimination, then of course you should be raising your hand and of course you should be advocating for victims of police brutality and you can be commenting on what’s happening in another venue as a third party.
Now, here’s an idea, I know that trusts and estates attorneys in some firms in New York are providing free consultations to draft wills for healthcare professionals and frontline responders.
So, these are people who are offering services for employment-related issues, civil rights, discrimination, trust in the state and services and I think that this is the time for them to be stepping up and raising their hand as to what it is that they bring to the table. Now, for other practices, most attorneys are probably treadingwater and they are waiting for the conversation to change and then that’s when they’re going to step forward.
So, here are the reasons why you might want to be in the news. Of course, you want to attract clients; that’s obvious. And of course, you want to be top of mind with your referral sources. If your filing litigation, you might want to put pressure on opposing counsel because people will read about the case and the news and they’ll think I’m not going to do business with these people; they’re obviously not good citizens.
You might want to build your reputation; you might want to keep in touch with your current and lapsed clients or keep in touch with the many people in your circles, the people you went to law school with, the people who you were on the other side of a transaction or on the other side of litigation; maybe you served on a committee with the local bar association; maybe you want to recruit employees who want to work for that hot firm that’s always getting in the news. And if you’re on the board of a non-profit that is dealing with economic issues or civil rights issues and so on, then you can be speaking on behalf of that non-profit and advocating for an issue. So, putting it all together, reporters call the people they know. They don’t call you miss or mister attorney if they haven’t heard of you because they don’t know who you are and what you have to say and why anybody else should care.
So, you should be thinking of who you want to reach among the audiences that I mentioned and why you want to be in touch with them. And then you have to position yourself to be seen in those publications and those media outlets where they are looking for information and when they are looking for resources.
Jared Correia: Right. So, I think that’s great. I think that’s a good rundown of why people should be in the news, the value it has. So, you talked about being in the publications that other journalists are reading. Can you talk about some other ways that attorneys can attract the attention of reporters and news outlets?
Janet Falk: The way that I like to guide my clients to attract attention is to introduce themselves in a formal way that explains who they are, what their background is and why somebody else should pay attention to them because they have the finger on the pulse of the market. Now, I use a tool called a media profile and I hope we can include a link to that in the show notes so that people can see what it looks like.
Jared Correia: Well, before we get into media profile, let’s take a break, hit up our sponsors and then we’ll come back and talk about that. But that’ll be in the show notes so folks can check that out. So, as I said we’re going to take a quick break here so that we can get some information out from our sponsors without whom we wouldn’t even have a podcast. So, let me draw your attention to some of those sponsors right now and we will be back momentarily.
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All right, thanks for coming back everybody. I’ve returned from raiding the Rolo stash I keep under the bed. So, let’s get back to our conversation with Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research about how law firms can get press coverage.
Now Janet, when we left off, you were talking about creating a media profile as a lawyer and how that can attract the attention of reporters and press outlets. So, can you dive into that now and talk about how to set one up and how that works?
Janet Falk: Great. I’m happy to do that.
Jared Correia: Thanks.
Janet Falk: So, a media profile is designed to answer three questions. the first question is why you? Why you, miss attorney or mister attorney, and not your colleague down the hall or your competitor across town? What is it that you know that other people need to hear more about that you are an authoritative and insightful resource? And the second question is why now? What is happening now in the industry or in the market or in the community that is different from what was going on before? And the third question is why should anyone care? In other words, looking at an individual or a business owner, a business executive or a corporation, how will your insight help them to save time, save money or make more money? So, a media profile is designed to present you, attorney, as a reliable authoritative source who has your finger on the pulse of the market and the law and knows that you can help others save time, save money and make more money.
So, the first part of the media profile is to provide your contact information. Your name, the name of your firm, your phone, your email and your address, your physical address, because we don’t want to construe this as an advertisement and we want to make sure that a person who sees it will be able to get in touch with you and that’s part of the rules of professional conduct. Then you have three to five sentences about your practice. So, let’s say you do products liability or personal injury just as an example.
Now, we’re going to give a little bit more detail with a few bullet points on what you do within that practice. Do you focus on drugs? Do you focus on medical devices? Maybe airline equipment or maybe children’s toys? Now, you’ve outlined your practice and you’ve gone a little more granular specifically about the kinds of cases that you handle, we’re going to talk about some hot topics or trends that people need to know more about. Any reporter knows what happened already. They want to know what’s going to happen before it happens so that they can share that with their readers and their readers will benefit.
Now the next part is a snappy quote so that the reporter can imagine what it would be like to talk with you and they’ll be something that would be quotable and memorable. And finally, if you don’t take your own phone calls, if you have a public relations colleague, a public relations consultant or an assistant, then that person is the one to contact. So, make sure that their name, phone number and email address are available there.
Now this media profile is not one and done. You have to update it either quarterly or semi-annually because there are new issues that are going to crop up, there are deadlines for compliance and legislation and there are new topics that you might be addressing as your practice evolves.
So, the media profile is the professional way to introduce yourself to reporters and raise the flag and stake out your territory so that they will know why they should talk to you, what kind of issues you focus on and how to get in touch with you. There you go.
Jared Correia: I love that. That’s great. So, like, is this something that you’re sending to reporters when they contact you? Is this something you’re sending to reporters to drive interest or both? Like, how do you push this out there?
Janet Falk: I introduce my clients, my attorneys, whatever executives I’m working with, I introduce them to reporters. I identify reporters who are going to be interested in specific issues and then I get in touch with them and I say, “Given your interest in product liability and the airline industry, I thought you would be interested in speaking with Jared Correia and here’s the background information, happy to arrange a conversation.”
Jared Correia: Oh yeah, please don’t call me. I know nothing about products liability in the airline industry. However, so this makes a lot of sense to me. And then a follow-up question I have is like I see a lot of attorneys who are building out a presence on social media, like is that also a way that you could attract reporters as well?
Janet Falk: I would be a little more circumspect about that. Reporters are always looking for sources and ideas for stories.
And when they get your media profile or they learn your name, they’re going to check you out. They’re going to look at your website, your LinkedIn profile, whatever activity you’re doing on LinkedIn, your Twitter, your Facebook and so on, and all of that should fit together. It should all be consistent, and your social media presence in my mind should confirm that you are the attorney that you say you are on your website and in your media profile.
Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky and technical. If you’re not already connected to a reporter on a social media platform, then they will have to look for you or look for the topic that you are discussing on that platform. Now remember, they don’t know you, so they’re going to be looking for the topic, but even if you are connected to the reporter, I bet you know this, Jared. Only 9% of your LinkedIn contacts see your posts on LinkedIn. So that means that 90% of your contacts never see what you’re posting on LinkedIn, right?
And on Facebook, it’s only 2%. So, no matter how active you are on social media, on those two platforms, the odds are really against somebody just stumbling across your information, even the people that you know might not see what’s going on. So, I say that social media is less likely to capture the attention of a reporter.
Now, let’s go back to what I said earlier about the media profile. Let’s imagine that we are a products liability attorney or a personal injury attorney and we’re active on social media; we are going to use hashtags that will flag the content in the post so that it will be seen in connection with that issue whether it’s #drug, #medicaldevice, #childrenstoy, #airlineequipment, and #productfailure.
Now, do you think that an airline industry reporter is going to wake up in the morning and say, “Gee, I wonder what’s happening in the product liability area for airplane equipment. I really ought to check out social media and see what’s cooking there.” No, that’s not what’s going to happen.
What’s more likely to happen is an industrious public relations professional has identified a reporter in the airline industry and she figured out that a personal injury attorney who has a case where someone was seriously injured allegedly due to a part malfunction on a plane that led to a crash that this reporter from the airline industry might be interested in talking with this attorney about airplane safety. And in fact, that is exactly the approach that I took. I represented an attorney with a bankruptcy practice. She focused on the airline industry. I introduced her to a reporter in her hometown of Chicago who followed the airline industry using a media profile and they got together and had coffee and chatted for 45 minutes and maybe four weeks later, the reporter published a story and it was about the prospect of bankruptcy in the airline industry.
Now, this reporter was from Thomson Reuters, the newswire service. And because of that, it was picked up in newspapers all around the world. This was a big success because the article had five quotes from the attorney, name of attorney, and name of law firm. And since it was published in newspapers all around the world coming from Thomson Reuters newswire, then her phone started to ring.
Now, did that reporter get the idea about bankruptcy and the airline industry from social media? No. So, my idea is, you cannot control who will see your social media posts or when. It’s up to the platform’s algorithms. So, social media activity is more like a resource and a compliment that confirms you are who you say you are. It’s so hard to be seen in the flood of social media waters if you are not already in touch with the reporter, and even then, you may not rise to the surface. So let’s pursue the media profile and then we can do social media activity after that.
Jared Correia: Got you. I think that’s a good combo platter. I said we weren’t going to get dark and here we are talking about plane crashes and product’s liability.
Let’s take another break here. I appreciate you are helping me to cover this topic, Janet. Let’s listen to some more words from our sponsors before we come back and wrap this program up with one final segment.
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Thanks for staying with us. We’re here and we haven’t even talked about coronavirus that much. It’s great. Anyway, we will now continue on with Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research. She has been telling us how to get press coverage in the modern age. Let’s find out more.
All right, so the goal here is obviously to get reporters to talk to you and we’ve mostly discussed like how you do that, but what happens when reporters actually start calling? Do you have advice for attorneys on how to actually interact with the press and what happens if somebody calls and you’re not expecting it? How can you get good under your feet if you’re not already? So, a two-part question.
Janet Falk: Right. So, I have three tips and I hope we can include in the show notes five tips, which I think everybody should pay attention to. So, the first one is —
Jared Correia: Two more bonus tips. Great.
Janet Falk: Yeah. All right, so the first one is a reporter is not your friend. Even if you went to law school, even if you were in the same sorority, the reporter is doing her job and is not your friend. So, don’t get yourself into trouble by saying it’s off the record, it’s on background, not for attribution, no. Everything that you say is on the record. You don’t want to see it in print and you don’t want to hear it on the TV or the radio, don’t say it. A reporter is not your friend.
The second thing, and this is the most important thing you will probably hear all day, is prepare. Prepare for this interview. A media interview is a bad time for an original thought. What I suggest you do is you come up with three bullet points and you print them out in 16-point font. Guess what, you’re having this interview on the phone. The reporter has no idea that you have a cheat sheet on your desk helping you to remember the three points that you want to emphasize in your conversation with the reporter.
Now here’s the third thing. How to be quotable? You can use an acronym. You can use an analogy, clear as day, clear as mud. You can use an anecdote that explains what would happen if certain circumstances arise. You can use alliteration like I just did, acronym, analogy, anecdote, alliteration. They all start with the letter A.
Jared Correia: Well done.
Janet Falk: See how quotable this is?
Jared Correia: I see that.
Janet Falk: Yeah. You can use a visual image so that a person can imagine the scenario. You can make a reference to popular culture, right? Jared, you’re in Boston, Sweet Caroline, hands, washing hands, don’t touch me, I won’t touch you, right?
Jared Correia: Wait, is that how it goes? No.
Janet Falk: Almost. You can use rhyme. You can use wordplay. So, all of these approaches are tools that will make you more quotable. So, that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, when a reporter calls you and you haven’t been in touch before or you’re not expecting the call, then you have to think one of two scenarios. The reporter knows something that you do not know yet or the reporter knows something that you are not authorized to talk about yet. So, the first thing you have to do is figure out why is the reporter calling and then you can figure out what you’re going to do next.
So, you might think the reporter is calling about your client where there’s a union group that’s organizing the employees or you might think that they’re calling about the COVID-19 vaccine that your pharma client is developing, but no.
It is not about that. It is about something else. It’s about the hush-hush M&A deal that you’re not allowed to talk about. It’s about a fire in the parking lot at the plant in Dayton, Ohio. It’s about the CFO who is embezzling money. It’s about something entirely different. Now, what are you going to do? So, what I suggest to do is first, you delay. You say, “I’d really like to talk with you, but I have someone in my office right now,” or “I have someone on the phone right now. So, why don’t I get your name and your phone number, and your email address?”
Now, listen. In case I need to gather additional information, so that I can be more helpful to you, please let me know exactly what you would like to discuss. So, this way, you are teaming up with the reporter. You’re saying, “I want to talk with you but in case I need to gather more information, please let me know exactly what you want to talk about because I want to be helpful to you,” and then you close with, “I will call you back in 30 minutes.” There is no news story that’s so important that it cannot wait for 30 minutes.
So, now you’ve gotten the reporter’s contact information, you know that they’re calling because there’s issues of racial discrimination at that plant in Dayton, Ohio, and now you’re going to call the client. You’re going to call the client, you’re going to get permission to talk to the press, and you’re going to find out what’s going on because the reporter knows something that you do not know or that you were not prepared to talk about.
Now, you’ve called the client, you’ve gotten some information, come up with your three bullet points in 16-point font. Come up with your analogy, alliteration, quotable reference, so that the reporter will write down what you have said, and then call the reporter back.
Don’t think that you can get away with not calling the reporter back after 30 minutes. They’re expecting your call. You promised them and if you don’t talk to them, guess what? They’re going to talk to somebody else. They’re going to talk to a competitor of the client. They’re going to talk to a disgruntled employee. They’re going to find somebody else to talk to. So find out exactly what the reporter wants to ask you about, get in touch with the client, and get the details, come up with your three bullet points of what you want to discuss, and make something quotable that will go along with it, and call the reporter back because you don’t want to burn that bridge, the reporter is going to come back to you.
Jared Correia: That’s a pretty good roadmap. We even got down to font size. Very nice. And we’ve got time for one last question, I should say, so can you talk a little bit about press releases, which I know law firms are not particularly familiar with? Do you have any best practices surrounding those?
Janet Falk: Right. A media profile is timeless but a press release is time-sensitive. It says, “Pay attention now. This is important.” And you’re trying to grab the reporter’s attention so that they will call you back and you can provide more information. So the first thing you want to do is come up with a good headline and put that in your subject line. If at all possible, use a household name, but if that’s not available to you, then come up with something snappy that will grab the reporter’s attention.
You have to explain why this issue matters now, whatever it is that matters now, and whether it’s a transaction or whether it’s litigation. Then you have to work backwards. You have to say, “What is it that I want the news story to say?” And then, put in all that information that you would like to see in the news story because if it’s not in the press release and the reporter who is besieged by many other things does not have the time to call you back, it’s not going to get into the story. So, think what is it that you want to have in the story and make sure that it’s in the press release, and then work backwards in that way. Now, finally, you want to have a quote, something that’s memorable because as I said, if the reporter doesn’t have the opportunity to call you back, your quote is what’s going to be in the story. So, you should focus on the headline, you should focus on what must be in the story and make sure it’s in the press release, and focus on your quote being snappy and memorable in that moment now.
Jared Correia: I say we have like a media playbook at this point. Very nice.
Sadly, however, we’ve reached the end of another episode of the Legal Toolkit Podcast. This was the podcast about how lawyers can get better press coverage and we’ve been talking with Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research. Now, I’ll be back on future shows with further insights into my soul, the soul of America, what’s left of it, and the legal market.
If you’re feeling nostalgic from my dulcet tones, however, you can check out an entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com. So, thanks again to my guest today, Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research, for making an appearance.
Janet, can you tell everyone how they can find out more about you and the services you provide?
Janet Falk: Oh, absolutely, Jared, and by the way, I offer a free 30-minute consultation and I guarantee two ideas, whether it’s about media relations, LinkedIn profile, newsletter, and so on. My website is my name, Janet, J-A-N-E-T, L for love, F as France, A-L-K, dot-com, janetlfalk.com. And I am active on LinkedIn and I have a monthly newsletter where I share tips like these.
Jared Correia: Awesome, and if that consultation, a free consultation, anything like this half-hour show should be very productive. So, Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research, thanks again for appearing on the show today.
Janet Falk: My pleasure, Jared. Thanks for inviting me.
Jared Correia: Finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. This has been the Legal Toolkit Podcast, where danger is my middle name. Actually, the D stands for Daniel. Take care, everybody.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Legal Toolkit, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join host, Jared Correia, for his next podcast covering the current business trends for law firms.
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The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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