PR for Law Firms: Promote the “Why” Not the “Who” in New Hire Announcements

Let’s be honest. Even in the best of times, press releases announcing new associates were a “feel good” exercise.  If they made it into print at all, they were chopped up into blurbs and consigned to “People on the Move” listings in newspapers and trade publications.  The full version of the release, which included high-sounding manufactured quotes by the managing partner, only appeared in the “Press” section of the firm’s website.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zY2o_4nlsw&w=420&h=345]

New hire announcements were not news then, and they’re not news now. But they could have new life and relevance in content marketing if you fundamentally reconceive their purpose and structure.

  • Make the headline and opening paragraphs a statement about how the hires enhance the firm’s capabilities — why clients/potential clients should care. When Todd Smith announced the addition of a new associate on his Texas Appellate Law Blog, the key takeaway was that “The firm will continue to focus on appellate matters and providing litigation support to trial lawyers.  Having Brandy [Wingate] on board and adding a presence in the Valley will enable us to better serve clients statewide.”
  • Tie the content and message of each new attorney’s mini-bio back to the top-line benefit statement in the headline/first paragraph.
  • Judiciously optimize SEO when drafting and structuring the release.
  • Include deep links into your website (bio pages, practice profiles, etc.), not just the home page.

Will these changes result in more mentions in news outlets and blogs? Probably not — As I said at the top, new hire announcements are not news. However, this approach adds value to your overall communications mix by converting a formerly inert non sequitur into a meaningful, integrated part of your master narrative.

Remember PR?: Basic Media Relations Could Be Your New “Secret Weapon”

Law firm PR isn’t dead; it’s just “off trend.”

Social media and networking platforms have hijacked law firm marketing mind share, discourse and resources, with many “experts” proclaiming that social media is the new PR. And I thank them for that misdirection, because it creates more opportunities for good old-fashioned media relations (with a few twists*).

While your competitors are bogged down writing post after post for their own blog on recent circuit court decisions, trusting THIS will be the one to command an editor’s attention, you could be appearing on a local Fox affiliate’s morning show segment about estate planning, or contributing posts on family law issues to a mommy blogger site.

The players and distribution channels (aka “media”) have changed, but not the need for, and effectiveness of, basic media relations: useful information engagingly presented, interesting and credible subject matter experts, and good stories well told.

* The “twists”:

  1. Redefine “journalist” – In addition to reporters/editors/correspondents at professional and general interest media, pay attention to “citizen journalists” (aka bloggers) who a) address the audiences you want to reach and b) have a demonstrated, ongoing interest in subject matter where you can offer unique expertise/insights. For me BlogHer is massively useful for identifying new outlets, conversations and conversationalists.  If you haven’t already, get on the HARO distribution, with matches journalists with subject matter experts through thrice-daily e-mail alerts. And don’t overlook opportunities to cultivate conversations and connections in the WordPress community.
  2. The Rolodex might be obsolete, but it’s still about your contacts – Journalists don’t sit around all day checking various content aggregation feeds for interesting posts. There are lots of great story ideas — and even more subject matter experts — out there to choose from. You still have to make 1:1 connections —  just like engaging with prospective clients — if you want to be memorable and useful to journalists.
  3. Think stories, not “news” – Classic, pre-Internet media relations put a premium on “newsworthiness” because the number of outlets and space/time slots within them were limited, and “hard” breaking or investigative news took precedence over “soft” feature stories. Blogging has turned that dynamic on its head. The bar for “hard” news is lower, and the demand for attention-grabbing  feature content and commentary — most notably of the “Top 10” list variety — is growing stronger daily. So if you’ve written an interesting blog post, don’t be afraid to turn it into a press release and/or pitch it directly to media, too.
  4. Give your press releases an SEO makeover – Almost as important as the information in your press releases is the format and searchability. Affordable services like PitchEngine can help you structure and SEO optimize. You can even set up a virtual “newsroom” so you don’t have to mess with posting releases on your website . And don’t forget to use your most searched-for keywords early and often!