Tune in for quick tips on almost every aspect of reputation-building for lawyers! In this episode of Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, hosts Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street talk to Michelle Calcote King about all things PR for law firms. They discuss best practices for press releases, laying out what types of news are worthy of release to the media and outlining how to establish a relationship with a journalist. Later, they talk about how to build a reputation as an authority in your practice area, offering strategies for creating a unique social media voice that cuts through the noise. Michelle also gives real-life examples of clients who have had notable PR successes and shares how lawyers can assess the benefits of a PR campaign.
Michelle Calcote King is the principal & president of Reputation Ink, a content marketing and public relations agency for complex B2B industries.
Lunch Hour Legal Marketing
PR Guidebook for Lawyers: Best Practices for Boosting Your Firm’s Reputation
Kelly Street: Hey Gyi.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Hey there, Kelly.
Kelly Street: How you are doing today?
Gyi Tsakalakis: I’m doing great.
Kelly Street: Oh, that’s so great.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I’m excited.
Kelly Street: Yeah you are.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yup.
Kelly Street: I’m not excited.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You’re not excited today?
Kelly Street: No, I am.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It’s weird.
Kelly Street: I’m always excited, but I want to surprise people sometimes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s good. Keep them on the edge of their —
Kelly Street: Seats.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Pods.
Kelly Street: Toes, pods, yes
Gyi Tsakalakis: Earphone — earphones.
Kelly Street: We want people to be on the edge of their pods.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Do you think that most people use earpods in their ears or over the ear headphones?
Kelly Street: In their ears I think.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I must be the freak because none of the — there’s only one kind of earpod that actually fits in my ear, and it’s not the one by the company that’s named after a fruit.
Kelly Street: Do you have large ear holes or small?
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think they are just misshapen or something, because like they never want to stay in there but —
Kelly Street: That is so random.
Gyi Tsakalakis: But seriously for our classic intro segue to our topic –
Kelly Street: Yes?
Gyi Tsakalakis: How do you feel about the news?
Kelly Street: I like it. I mean I’m on my news app on my phone. I just have the standard Apple news app on my phone, and I check that multiple times a day, try to see what’s going on in the world and be aware.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It’s good.
Kelly Street: How about you?
Gyi Tsakalakis: No. I mean I don’t use the Apple, I don’t use for news I don’t know but news consumption attracts a lot of my attention.
Kelly Street: Yeah, yeah. You’re a news guy.
Gyi Tsakalakis: News guy.
Kelly Street: What’s happening right away guy, I get that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Speed guy.
Kelly Street: Are there any news stories happening lately that you’re particularly interested in, keeping in mind that this will of course air like a month or two later.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yes, so —
Kelly Street: So think ahead, think of what’s going to be popular in two months, Gyi?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Gosh, I am going to get myself in tons of trouble, because people don’t know exactly when this is being recorded, whatever, I’m not going to go down there. What’s the news, new story today, what did I see recently? Okay, here’s one in the news. There’s a County, I’m going to get myself in trouble again, but there’s a — I think it’s a County in Upstate, New York that has declared that if you’re not vaccinated, you’re under 18 and you’re not vaccinated, you may not go into any public space.
Kelly Street: Yes, I saw that, I saw that. How do you — maybe we shouldn’t ask how we feel about that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well so that sparked actually a converse, so I posted that out. I’m a big — I share things on the socials.
Kelly Street: Yes, you do.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You know, it’s funny, someone this week, I was at this wedding this weekend and someone’s like, they pulled me aside, they’re like, I just want you to know I read everything you share on Facebook. I was like wow. I was like I am really sorry to hear that. So I shared this article and of course, some people got interested in talking about it and one of the big concerns was whether or not it discriminates against children who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons and of course, it does.
And I think one of the misperceptions and I am now really going to get myself in trouble is that the government actually has pretty broad powers in public health contexts, even if they tend to be discriminatory and it really comes into — you get into the specifics of does it survive strict scrutiny, compelling state interest, narrowly tailored, least restrictive and so, my hunch is, is that this is probably okay.
It’s only temporary anyway, up four minutes, we’re getting the heads-up, you’re talking way too much people.
Kelly Street: Well you know what Gyi, I hope that somebody listening since this will come out in the future. I hope that somebody listening will have taken that story, newsjacked the heck out of it and got some PR for themselves.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So, we’re very fortunate today to have a guest who to go out on a limb and refer to her as a professional newsjacker.
Kelly Street: Ooh, a professional newsjacker.
Gyi Tsakalakis: What’s that?
Kelly Street: Basically a PR superstar who wants to help lawyers become PR superstars. And now, let’s get into our interview with Michelle Calcote King.
Intro: Welcome to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, with your hosts Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street, teaching you how to promote, market, and make fat stacks for your legal practice, here on Legal Talk Network.
Kelly Street: All right, Gyi.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Kelly.
Kelly Street: Let’s get into this. We are joined by Michelle Calcote King, the PR extraordinaire for law firms of all sizes and beyond. And so, Michelle, why don’t you introduce yourselves to — or self, because there’s only one of you, to our listeners.
Michelle Calcote King: Sure. Well thank you for that title. So I am the Principal of Reputation Ink, and we are a public relations and marketing agency and we specialize in professional services, mostly law firms but we do work with architecture, engineering those kinds of firms as well.
Kelly Street: Fabulous. And how did you — was there connection you had to lawyers and law firms that kind of helped you sort of carve out that niche for PR?
Michelle Calcote King: Sure. I’ve been in PR my whole career, worked in PR agencies and just sort of fell into more of the business to business side of PR. I just always enjoyed the more substantive topics and ended up with a law firm client that a PR agency and then left and went to a PR firm that specialized in law firms.
So did that for several years and then finally left to start my own thing about eight years ago and had built up a lot of relationships in the legal industry, and so we continue to have that focus.
Kelly Street: Fabulous. So my first thing I want to get into right off the bat is press releases, because early on in my career, working for a matchmaker actually, I would write up press releases for things we were doing or searches we were conducting for love matchmaking and was just such an interesting thing and I always wondered like who’s seeing this, who’s reading this, who cares about what we’re emailing them with this press release.
And so, I think that’s where I want to get things started off here is like, how I know you’ve written about attention-grabbing press releases and kind of breaking through the noise and so I’m wondering about that. How can a firm in 2019 use press releases?
Michelle Calcote King: Sure. This is often debated topic, if press releases are dead that kind of thing, and they’re certainly not. I mean press releases are written in the style of a news story. So there’s something that reporters understand, we follow their inverted pyramid style. So press releases are used whenever you have news to share.
So it’s an 07:53 format. It makes sure that you’re handing a reporter, a journalist the story already written for them, most reporters aren’t going to run at word for word, although that does happen, but it gives them all the information they should need to write a story and it helps really kind of make sure especially in the age when we’re all concerned about getting the facts right and fake news and all that, it kind of helps make sure that you’ve done your legwork, you’ve presented all that information to the reporter.
So they’re very highly effective tools, all the reporters that we work with use our press releases and they’re the right medium when you have news. Now, if you’re going out there and you’re wanting to comment on a story or you’re wanting to pitch a publication or an outlet to write a bylined article, those aren’t going to be — you wouldn’t use the press release.
But a press release is really, if a firm has won a case, if they’re opening a new office, if they’ve got a new lateral partner, anything like that, press release is definitely warranted.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, I think one of the — one of the issues that we see all the time with press releases that don’t achieve their objective and I think something that you’re alluding to here is its newsworthiness, right?
Michelle Calcote King: Exactly, yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So, so many firms, they use press releases as their opportunity to create an advertisement or something like that and of course, no one wants to read that and people turn it off and want to block it.
And so, I think the umbrella term press release or even PR to a certain extent, it takes on this kind of negative connotation, but it’s really because people are just either abusing the press release or not doing it very well.
Michelle Calcote King: Exactly. Yeah, if you work with a PR firm or a publicist, they can advise you when a press release is warranted or not. So you’re right. If it’s overly promotional if it’s an ad disguised as the press release that is going to damage your reputation with the media that you’re sending that press release to.
So you really only want to use them when you have news to share, and the only way to really know and understand what’s news is to look at the media on a regular basis and see what they’re reporting on, and to kind of build that understanding and that idea of what is news and what’s not is.
You can also do short news items on your website. Sometimes there’s things that don’t rise to the level of news worthiness for the media, third-party media, but your audience that you might have developed through social media, through LinkedIn, you might want to share that with them and you can put together kind of new style alert or blog post, but for example, one of the most common ones that we see is when a firm launches a new website, and often we get the hey, we need to do a press release.
Well, that’s no one’s going to run that news. But if you want to share that with your audience, certainly a small short blurb, that hey, we did this website. We made sure to think of our audience, there’s value here, that kind of thing.
So you can use that but it won’t go to the media, it’s just your particular audience that you built up through social media or other avenues that you have maybe email or something like that.
Kelly Street: Yeah, and I think another one of the things you mentioned is the relationship there and kind of building up that when you’re sending something to a reporter, they can trust that you’re not just making their Inbox filled with clutter, you’re actually giving them something that could be a story or that could be a lead that they would want to talk to you more about.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah, so a lot of what PR people are doing on a regular basis is establishing a relationship with the journalist and that’s why PR firms that specialize in a certain area honestly do so well because we develop our own reputation independent of our clients but as a source of good information in a certain area.
So reporters will start to know and understand these PR people have legal resources, they might and often they will come to us proactively and say, hey do you have an attorney who does X?
So that relationship and that reputation that we are building between the media is very important and we guard it very carefully. So that’s why a PR person might push back to a client and say, that’s not really newsworthy and if I send this out then I’m damaging my reputation with the media, which then harms our ability to meet our objectives for you.
So a lot of it is making sure to protect those relationships and build up that relationship as being somebody who responds quickly, who provides good sources, good media sources, who isn’t going to fill your Inbox with things that aren’t relevant, that aren’t actual news that kind of thing.
So it’s very important to make sure that you’re thinking about that and respecting that relationship that we have to make sure we maintain on behalf of our client.
Kelly Street: Yeah. Another kind of thing that I know a lot of lawyers and firms are looking to promote is when they have a big, a big win, a big dollar amount or kind of David versus Goliath sort of win, and having that dollar amount become more than just something that they put on their website and are there kind of tips or tricks around how you can get those out there and where it’s more than just self-promotional noise in front of the media and for journalists?
Michelle Calcote King: Sure. So I think you’re asking about litigation PR is my guess, but –
Kelly Street: Yes, thank you.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah no problem. And we do a lot of litigation PR and it is a unique, it’s a unique area, because litigation obviously has a lot of confidentiality aspects that you have to consider. Litigation can stretch on and on for years. So a lot of what we do with our clients who are working on big litigation is really just pushing to make sure we know what’s going on and I know that sounds really simple, but the worst thing that can happen when a big win, decision comes down is that a law firm goes to its PR firm and says, oh hey, we happen to have been working on this case the last three years, we just got this big, really positive outcome and we want to publicize it, because the media moves so fast.
One, if you wait a little bit they’re going to cover it especially if it’s an important case and important is subjective, so it can be important to very niche industry or it can be market moving decision that the Wall Street Journal is going to be interested in.
But in any case, it’s incredibly important that your PR firm is involved so that one, we start to get an understanding of who the people are that are writing about it. So what reporters are writing about it, what information are they looking at, what are they — how are they covering the case?
So one, we just have a media list ready to go whenever we want to go out there and talk about the case, but two, so that we understand it and can quickly write that press release and get it out there. So pining and often what we’re doing is we’re kind of — we’re going to reporters and saying, hey, we represent this law firm, they’re in-charge of this case and here’s what we can tell you, but we want to be your go-to resource for this case because often there’s other firms involved. So they know there’s somebody available so that when they do get — want that information because the verdict comes down and they’re responsible for getting that story out before anybody else.
So that’s kind of a critical part of that. So and I think also the question was sort of how do I get my message out, the fact that this was a big deal versus just the case. In the end, the media is going to write the story that they think that their audience is interested in.
So they’re not going to be thinking about your angle, but you can better your chances of getting your messages across by one, being the person that they turn to, so establishing that relationship, making sure that you’ve kind of built that reputation with them too, but also thinking about does that number, does that outcome have impacts, does it set a press – not a press, I know it’s a legal term, but does it set any kind of standard in the industry.
So looking at it more from a how — what does this mean for this industry or these issues and trying to fit it into the conversation that way.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, I think that’s an — it’s such great information and I think one of the other challenges that we hear from a lot of solos and small firm lawyers that might — maybe they can’t — they don’t have the budget for a big PR blitz is how to identify and do some of the legwork that may be a PR agency is very sophisticated skilled at.
What kind of tips do you have for those solo and small firm lawyers that say hey you know what, I eventually probably need a PR agency but today I want to start putting the building blocks in place. I think you mentioned building the relationships with local reporters. What are some other ways that lawyers should be thinking about trying to develop those relationships or find those PR opportunities when they are more of a do-it-yourselfer?
Michelle Calcote King: Sure. Number one is actually read that media, so pay attention to it, read it, understand it, know what this publication writes about, get a sense of it would be key. Two would be to reach out to the reporters and say, hey, this is my area of expertise, this is what I do day in and day out. I’d love to be a resource for you if you ever have a story that you need that kind of expertise. That’s often how we start.
When we work with a law firm who has never done any kind of PR, we do and we have a fancy term for it, we call it sourced filing or I do, I don’t know where I got that word from, but basically we’re going out, we’re trying to make sure that these reporters have these attorneys in their source file.
So we’re making that introduction and saying, if you ever write about X, here’s this attorney and an attorney can certainly do that themselves. They can follow a reporter who covers the beat that they specialize in and make that introduction and that’s a simple, it says, I saw this story. I see that you’re writing about this. I’d love to be a resource for you, here’s my cell phone number, here’s my email, give a little bit of credentialing. So here’s the kind of clients I work with, here’s my expertise and establishing that relationship.
I think those are the really the best two ways to kind of get started in working with the media.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s good stuff and I think that’s one of the things I think that a lot of lawyers miss on is that there’s this idea of well I’m just going to work hard and provide great service to my clients and I’m going to earn this media attention automatically and it’s not always quite that simple. The media, the journalists, they’re busy. They’re getting inundated with noise every single day and so to having this lens of developing the relationship with media, identifying who the people are they’re covering the stories all very key.
And then when you’re talking tactical, do you recommend that people reach out on social media? If so, are their preferred platforms? You kind of get your thoughts on tools like Help A Reporter Out. Are there any other kind of tips or tricks that you might be able to share?
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah. Sure, yeah I’ve definitely used Help A Reporter Out, it can be very — it can be somewhat time consuming to monitor it on a regular basis. So for me, a couple of things we do is setting up Google Alerts, that’s kind of — and especially for an attorney who is doing this on their own, set up those Google Alerts on the topics that you want to be known for and start to get an understanding of who’s writing about it.
Reaching out over social media there’s certainly some reporters that would mind a direct tweet or something like that. But honestly email, email is the way to go. It’s the business medium that everyone is used to. Email allows a reporter to get back to you on their time. When you’re going over social media, it might not be the kind of flow that they’re used to.
So almost always email is best. There are some cases when it’s not and there’s other tools that we use to monitor who’s tweeting about certain stories that kind of thing, but if it’s a solo attorney doing it themselves I would by far encourage them to reach out over a email and they can certainly, if there are events, where there’s reporters, make an introduction in person but really email is the way to go.
Kelly Street: Expounding on Twitter specifically a little bit, we have talked to a few lawyers who are really using Twitter to their advantage and kind of there’s one in particular Greg Siskind. He is an immigration attorney and he takes any ruling or anything that’s kind of happening in the immigration space, and breaks it down on Twitter in multiple tweets or just, hey, here’s this new ruling, this is what it means, and he gets a lot of interaction from reporters just through that and has been written up in a variety of media sources. Is that something you’re seeing to and are there any kind of tricks to doing that sort of thing?
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah. So that can be done in a couple of ways. So it is basically establishing yourself as an authority on your own platforms, so that the media are going to start to take notice. I mean journalists are doing jobs very similar to the rest of us and that they’re going to Google often to find information where they are. So once they find someone, and especially if they find someone who’s regularly providing information of value to them on Twitter, then they’re going to start paying attention.
I’ve had clients, I’ve known people in the industry that have built a reputation purely off of blogging. The Twitter example you gave is a great sample, and then the media take notice because they’re really just pumping out good information on a niche area and that’s sort of a goldmine for a reporter who — you got to think, reporters are assigned to a beat where they are not the expert. Some become experts over time, but they’ve got to learn as much and they’ve got to bring to the table credible information and resources. So you can establish yourself that way, through blogging, through social media that can certainly be a very successful effective strategy.
It’s time consuming, I wouldn’t do it, well, because most of the time, I don’t think I’d do it just purely for media relations outcome, but that’s certainly an outcome that can come from that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So one of the — another issue that we run into all the time with lawyers, and I’m sure you’ve got some stories you can share about this, is this idea of trying to appeal to everybody on everything all the time, what that ends up doing is watering down, making things more vanilla.
So help listeners understand, one that they don’t need to be afraid of taking a stand on particular issue, and then maybe you can share some experiences or stories or examples of firms that have taken a position, whether it’s politics or something else that they’ve had — it’s really been a net benefit to them from a public relations or reputation standpoint.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah, so those are the clients I love the most, are the ones that aren’t scared to, like you said, have an opinion or that really injects personality into what they say, so aren’t so vague. It’s really just a matter of how crowded online conversations are nowadays and how crowded the space is online in terms of resources and news outlets and blogs and really sort of standing out.
So the people that have risen above the fray are somewhat different and that does require a little bit of bravery on taking a stand. I’m a big believer that the more the internet world evolves that authenticity and transparency and being a real true person is what’s going to really win in the end. And I’m starting to see that even in the big corporations, they’re realizing that people respond to people and people aren’t these sort of vanilla vague corporate messages. They have opinions, they talk creatively with personality that’s why in the content world they talk a lot about tone of voice.
So that’s what really stands out and the media the media more than anybody knows what audiences want, especially their audience.
So they’re looking for what the audience wants and they’re looking for that fresh perspective opinion analysis, analysis is huge for lawyers. I do see some attorneys putting out information, they’re really just sort of regurgitating what happened but they need to provide the — what does this mean, what’s likely to happen next, here’s how this might impact this industry, so, but certainly also if you can say it in a unique way, that’s incredibly important.
A lot of times that’s just kind of letting your personality and who you are shine through and a lot of that is getting over what’s been kind of drilled into attorneys and really kind of — a lot of people in the business world is that you shouldn’t be yourself in business and media communications but that’s what people respond to.
So it’s something that we really encourage as much as we can often what we’ll do is we’ll get on the phone and interview an attorney instead of asking them to send us a quote, we get on the phone and we talk to them because that’s what we’re going to get that real great quote from them because they’re often just talking off the cuff, and then we write it up and we interstate look this is what’s really going to work. So absolutely.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s great. And kind of the other end of the spectrum from the Do It Yourselfer for folks who are listening who maybe at a larger firm or they are already working with a PR agency, one of the questions that comes up a lot is, how do you measure success or how do you understand the value of what an agency brings to the table.
So maybe you could talk a little bit about some of the things that when you’re talking to your clients or even a prospective client that you say, these are the types of things that you should expect from a PR agency and these are the types of things that how we’ll end up measuring defectiveness of any particular campaign.
Michelle Calcote King: Sure. Anytime you work with the PR agency, you’ve got to start out at the beginning with setting goals. So and that includes things like you know here the outlets that we want to be in and you can have that conversation with your PR person about whether you have the stories or the expertise to appear in those outlets but that should be where you started. This is where we want up here and this is what we want to do.
So we definitely look at just purely did we achieve what we set out to do, are we getting in those publications, are we the firm that is approached to comment on the issues that we set out. You can — if you want to set up other measures, there’s things like one of the things I think is kind of critical and you guys being in the digital world would know this would be Domain Authority, is your site’s Domain Authority improving because of a PR campaign and it absolutely should.
So that’s I think a longer-term measurement but you should be able to look at yeah, this is an increase, because we are landing in these other sites that have strong Domain Authority and that’s increasing ours, we’re getting those backlinks from media outlets and influencers and things like that.
So that to me is a critical one. You can look at other measurements like social media measurements because often, you’re going to have social media shares and an increase in social media followers but really just the two that I think are the most important are your media placements, are we getting where we said we were going to and looking at your site’s Domain Authority.
Kelly Street: Nice. Yeah, and speaking to of course, one of the things that Gyi and I care about are the digital marketing side of things. That is one of the — one big advantage especially in today’s kind of news marketplace where almost every story that gets written up in a paper, paper is online and even more stories are typically posted online because they can get out in real time.
Is the ability to build links and have that what Google wants the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is when a major news publication writes something about you or quotes you, you’re showing all of those different things that you’re an expert that you are trustworthy and that you are an authority on this topic and kind of lends itself to all of the other things that a firm is probably doing if they’re sophisticated enough to work with a PR agency, they’re probably doing a bit with their digital marketing too.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah absolutely. No question about it. Good media relations can improve your SEO and your other digital goals. So that’s an important part, especially again going back to there’s so much content out there and the media outlets are credible are going to have that Domain Authority that’s going to send a lot of traffic your way but also the media relations side gives that stamp of approval. So you can be doing your own blogging, your own email newsletter.
You can make sure you appear in the first three hits on Google, but getting that media coverage says that somebody else thinks I’m good at this. So that’s a big part of it and how it all kind of works together.
And then you can take that media coverage and push it out over social media, send it out over email, all of those things. Use some of the quotes from the article to as quotes that you can then use in your marketing materials all of those things. And that is a having been in PR for many years.
I remember when I started out in PR, the internet world started becoming more and more important. It was still sort of the gold standard to get in the print publication, and that’s just sort of completely gone away now. We don’t have clients asking well, but did it also get in the print pub. I think people now really understand that the world operates on — the business world operates online so whether — there are cases where print publications are still alive and well, our clients especially really understand that the online articles is what people are going to see and what’s also going to drive traffic to your website and that’s the important place to be.
Kelly Street: Yeah. So before we started recording, we officially recording — we got into a little bit of a conversation about cool things that your clients are doing, are things that your agency is doing for your clients, and you mentioned a client who is doing some Trump related PR things and I would love to know a little bit more about that.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah. So we work with a litigation law firm who had one attorney who had a background doing Special Investigations. So, working as a special counsel, he was a special counsel for a governor who was impeached. So we worked with them on the impeachment investigation, so when his office released the report similar to how Mueller just recently released the report, helping get coverage of that and also manage all that media and after all that had happened is when the Mueller investigation really started kicking off and this is where there’s a lot of terms out in the industry or a lot of talk, but this is basically just inserting yourself, i.e. the attorney into a conversation of things happening related to their area of expertise but not actually it.
Kelly Street: Oh, Newsjacking, right?
Michelle Calcote King: Exactly, newsjacking. There you go. So that’s basically what we did. So it was, hey Mueller investigations happening, you’re going to need to understand how these investigations work, what the implications of each — the media followed this investigation every step of the way and they needed a resource to tell them. This is kind of how this works, here’s the analysis and insight into what might happen or why, Mueller might have said this or done this, what it might mean that kind of thing.
So we really just sort of started pitching and saying, look, we’ve got this attorney who has led at least two of these investigations, one was incredibly high profile and he can provide that analysis you speaking was really incredibly successful, he was regularly on MSNBC’s Brian Williams Show, he was quoted in USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, but honestly he is — I shouldn’t talk about him in past tense. He served this ideal attorney PR client and that he really understood the power of quickly giving us quotes and very kind of quotable quotes, you know good meaty quotes that said, this has happened in the Mueller case and this is what it means.
This is what’s important, you should pay attention to this, that analysis and in a great succinct way and then we would quickly get it out to the media and he became this trusted resource for that investigation. It really boosted the reputation for that firm’s practice area. I know they got an internal investigation work out of it. So that’s — that’s really what newsjacking is in a sense. It’s looking at what’s happening in the media and injecting and inserting yourself and your expertise into that conversation and becoming that person that when a journalist says, I got to write the story on this, who do I know is the guy who can really answer all these questions for me and that’s how that works.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s very cool stuff, and I think the other thing too that comes out of that story and many others is this aspect of timing, right, like you have to be fast?
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think so many lawyers are this, they can’t respond to the new cycle as fast.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah absolutely. It’s part of our job to once we understand that an attorney wants to be quoted, is to monitor the media and to know what’s happening, so to jump on that. But we have to have an attorney who’s going to respond quickly and who’s not going to be scared quickly, give some insight or analysis or opinion. So that’s incredibly important is to really kind of respond quickly and be accessible to your PR person.
Let us know hey, I’m going to be in court all day today and that’s — if you’ve been working closely and we’re pitching and we’re doing all this, but let us know, I’m not going to be available all day tomorrow or here’s my cell phone, that kind of availability and relationship can do wonders in terms of getting that coverage.
So the media now have to generate two to three times the amount of stories and you don’t have the time that they used to. So they need things quick. It’s the nature of the beast. When I first started out doing media relations, I would take journalists to lunch to these long lovely lunches, but that doesn’t — it doesn’t really happen as much anymore. They have a quota of stories they’ve got to file that day. So it is the timeliness in that 24-hour news cycle. It’s not going to stop at five o’clock, so that’s why being available is kind of a critical aspect of success.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Awesome we spent a lot of time talking about PR more generally, but I think one of the things that I really liked from rep-ink.com, which I encourage everybody to go check out, was some of the case studies on there and there’s this and we’ve talked about it in terms of like building relationships with journalists, but the reputation is so important and so whether it’s on your websites or an attorney bio or in a byline, I think may be talking about some of the ways that you find are the most effective tactics for lawyers to communicate that reputation aspect.
So I’ll turn it over to you Michelle, the expert to maybe just kind of take it down that path, but I think that’s a piece that so many lawyers miss where they go the self-promotional route and they don’t weave that reputation aspect into their online voice.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah, well or it’s just the sort of laundry list of every little thing they’ve ever done. I honestly see that more than anything. It’s sort of this list of here’s a million things I’ve done versus so we do a lot of writing bios for lawyers and often what we start with is, you’re sitting down with your ideal clients, because that’s really what you want to write to. How would you describe them at a dinner party? How would you describe yourself at a dinner party?
So we try to pull that out of the attorney and then write it up. So that, if somebody goes to their bio, they kind of quickly understand, does this attorney do what I do, work in the area that I need and do I like them? Do they have successful case studies? Have they litigated successfully this type of case that I’m working on or that kind of thing?
So we’re often trying to draw that out. I am really kind of — I think it’s important that bios are broken down so that there’s an elevator pitch style bit in there, so that because people are busy. There’s just a lot of studies and I’m sure you guys know this on how people read online and it’s a different way of reading on paper, they’re scanning quickly to find the information they need. So you have to present that and again, you have to present it in a way that personal shows your personality. I love it when clients use client testimonial quotes. I think that’s incredibly valuable, but also just kind of writing it in that conversational style which is very hard for a lot of attorneys to make that transition. But it’s how anyone, I mean everyone talks in a conversational style. So you’ve got to never make it difficult for people to understand what you’re trying to communicate.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Excellent.
Kelly Street: Yeah. So change of direction a little bit here. One of the things and this is a question that is very much more interesting to me maybe, but I just have to ask. One of the things that I loved about the idea of PR was always that crisis management kind of thing.
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah
Kelly Street: And I just love that. So I would just love to know what that’s like for, for you or for potential clients of yours that they have some sort of a crisis or something happens and turning to you and what digging into that crisis looks like?
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah. I’ve always loved crisis PR. I don’t know what it is. It’s sort of like an adrenaline or I suddenly feel very important, but yeah, I’ve always loved crisis.
Crisis is, a good crisis PR person, like a good PR person does know the media. So they can understand how the media might frame a story and so they can advise a client they saw, look, if you do this you’re likely to do this, the media are likely to do this.
So a lot of it, crises are also different. It’s difficult to give very specific guidelines, but in general it is to control the flow of information. So it’s to have some media training, it’s the training upfront so that there is not commenting and with most law firms, we don’t have that problem, we have it with other clients who might have employees on the ground or something like that.
Most law firms typically know not to talk to the media about things without some sort of approval process, but especially in a crisis, it’s critical to control the message, to have one spokesperson who is trained, who then can be that go-to person between the media and the client.
So it’s identifying that, making sure that people aren’t talking out of turn, but then really being as transparent as possible, so that’s not always possible and in the end, it’s better to stay out of jail than to have a bad reputation. So although a bad reputation is not great either but we do want to — when we do crisis communications, we work closely with legal counsel to know what we can say, what we can’t.
But in the end, being transparent and communicating as much as we can, it’s critical because the public and the media view non-communication automatically in a negative light. So it’s very critical to be able to communicate what you can and often that is sinking through what we do often with crisis have messaging available around sensitive issues.
So for example, let’s say I’ll take a — it’s brainstorming, what are our likely crises and then brainstorming your good messaging. So a common response you might hear from — during a crisis is, you know what, I can’t comment on that, because right now we are — it’s the 41:56 investigation, I don’t have all the facts.
But here’s what I can tell you about a safety record or whatever it is. Here’s what we do to make sure, to ensure the safety of our employees or whatever is related to that crisis. So it’s being able to sort of fill that gap and provide the media with something that they can talk to that is positive so that you’re not a black hole of no information.
And also never speculating, so that’s kind of the — it’s just deaf in crisis communication. So, and the media understand that. So when you’re asked a question that you really aren’t totally sure about, I really can’t speculate, I don’t know that I’m going to get back to you about that versus any kind of guessing around those kind of things.
So there’s a couple of important ways you can manage that. You can get those pieces together and make sure that you’re ready to respond.
Kelly Street: That’s so cool. Yeah, so in crisis management you’re working with lawyers in a different way potentially but more on the other side of things.
Michelle Calcote King: We’ve done a lot of crisis work for our clients’ clients, because often when people are seeking out the services of a law firm, they are in a crisis. So that tends to be what will often be the case and on the legal side of things and then it is working with the lawyers to make sure that we aren’t in any way jeopardizing the case with what we say.
So that they’re an important aspect of that and what I’ve seen I think over the years is that PR people and law firms are working better together through that. There’s a better understanding of the importance of that public reputation, it’s not just as I said earlier, keeping them out of jail, it’s both.
So I’ve seen a greater understanding of that and a willingness to work with PR people to achieve both goals.
Kelly Street: Yeah, I think it used to be maybe more of a mindset of if the media is there, don’t say anything at all to now, it’s like okay, you can actually use the media more — I don’t want to say to your advantage but really you can – as that might sound sinister, but really you can say certain things and give little bits of information that will sort of satiate the public and kind of calm them down for the time being until that 24 hour news cycle is over.
Michelle Calcote King: Exactly, yeah exactly. So again, it is being as communicative as you can be and there’s ways to do that. There’s ways to going back to that, it’s a term we call Bridging. So it’s taking the question that you can’t or don’t want to answer and you see politicians do this all the time and bridging to an answer that you can do want to answer.
So, but to do that, you have to be skilled in that, you have to have thought through what can’t I answer and what can I answer, and kind of filling that need for information during a crisis, because that’s what they’re seeking, they’re seeking something, they want to write something.
So you can’t be that wall that won’t say anything. You have to think through how can I address this and what can I tell the media during this time.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, thank you so much Michelle for joining us today and for people that would like to connect with you online or learn more about any of the topics that we talked about today, how do you prefer people connect with you?
Michelle Calcote King: Yeah absolutely. Well, we — our name is Reputation Ink, and our website is rep-ink.com. So yeah, honestly, the best place is the website and we have a newsletter that attorneys and legal marketers can sign up for and all of our social media links are on the website.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Excellent.
Kelly Street: Well, thank you so much Michelle. Thank you everyone for listening and as always, if you liked what you heard today, please go ahead and leave us a rating or review on Apple podcast or if your other podcast app allows ratings and reviews, go ahead and do that too and make sure to hit the Subscribe button while you’re there. Thanks so much.
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Gyi Tsakalakis: You know what I always think of when I hear the term newsjack?
Kelly Street: So jacked bro.
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, that’s not what I think of at all, not even close.