Being quoted in the media is an excellent way to enhance a lawyer’s professional reputation and build credibility as an expert. But is it true that all PR good PR? Mostly yes, but there are exceptions and situations when media coverage can do more harm than good. For instance, if your firm is in the midst of a crisis, you need to tread carefully, but generally, media coverage is valuable, even if the topic isn’t 100% relevant to your practice. Attorneys who are quoted by the media are perceived as more valuable experts than their competitors. Talk about your niche if possible but don’t force it to fit.
Below are some tips to keep in mind when interview opportunities arise.
- Stay on message. Prepare a few talking points ahead of time to keep you focused and on track. If there are relevant data points like statistics or other key facts, have those handy so you can give accurate details.
- Assume everything is “on the record.” Regardless of how friendly a journalist may seem, always remember that this is a professional interview. It is always possible that the one thing you think won’t make the final article will end up staring back at you in a bold pull-quote one week later.
- Confidentiality counts. Never reference a specific client or client matter without explicit permission from that client. Even information that is public record may not be something your client wants to call attention to through the media.
- Never discuss numbers. For most law firm attorneys being interviewed, any details about firm financials, case settlement amounts and legal fees are off-limits. The firm’s managing partner or chief administrator may want to provide financials for law firm ranking surveys or feature articles, but that info shouldn’t come from anyone else.
- Resist the urge to give legal advice. Stick to discussing facts of cases or speaking broadly about strategy or circumstances. Use qualifying language rather than absolutes — words and phrases such as “might be,” “could be,” “perhaps,” and “often” or “sometimes” are your best friend when commenting on legal issues.
- Avoid one-word answers. Even if your interviewer phrases a question poorly, never answer a question with only a “yes” or a “no.” Use every question as an opportunity to highlight one of your key points and support your message.
- Think soundbites. Use short memorable phrases or sentences. Metaphors, similes or rhetorical questions can help certain points stick in a journalist’s brain and are more likely to end up being printed.
- Keep answers short. The longer the answer to a question, the more likely it will go off message. Try to stay in the 30-to-45-second sweet spot. By having a short, tight answer, you will ensure the reporter takes the right message from your response.
- Avoid excessively technical answers. When you talk above people’s heads, you drive them away. Answer as clearly and concisely as possible and avoid jargon and legalese whenever possible.
- Follow up to build an ongoing relationship. Email to thank the journalist and offer to provide insight or commentary they need in the future. Become their go-to source! Your follow-up email can also clarify anything you didn’t say well or amend something you regret saying – a good journalist will often let you ‘walk it back’ if you need to restate.
Media interviews are a great opportunity for you to chime in on current events, and succinct, knowledgeable quotes will establish your credibility as a legal professional. Keep these tips with you and look over them before any upcoming interviews – good preparation is key to the best media placements!