Legal PR Advice Public Relations Insights Beyond the Bar Thu, 15 Jan 2015 00:23:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 California Bar Reminds Lawyers to Stop Being So Self Promotional Thu, 15 Jan 2015 00:23:03 +0000

The California Bar has issued an opinion on the use of blogs as a vehicle to advertising their successes but anyone who writes a successful blog knows that self promotional material should be posted on a firm website or in a newsletter, not a blog.

According to a Law360 article today by Andrew Strickler, lawyers he interviewed who engage in social media called the draft opinion about blogs and lawyer advertising “welcome guidance.”

Andrew reported the nonbonding California opinion released in December interprets the professional conduct rule governing lawyer ads and solicitations and applies it to blogs ranging from the highly personal — a lawyer who writes about gardening, for example — to bald-faced promotional blogs complete with proclamations about big legal wins. The opinion finds that, for most attorney blogs, the issue of whether it falls under the advertising rule barring guarantees, fictitious names, and other misdirections comes down to if it is used to promote a lawyer’s availability for employment.

Good blogging practice should NEVER include self-promotion. Blogs are for thought leadership. They demonstrate your expertise on a topic or industry and provide content that you can push out to other social media platforms and traditional media. Self-promotional material will defeat the purpose of your blog and create clutter around what would otherwise be important reading for your audience. Blog posts will live on the Internet forever and drive traffic to you when a client – or a potential client – Googles your name or a specific subject. It’s why WSJ’s Law Blog or the LA Times’ Pop and Hiss does not promote their writers or the awards they win for their reporting.

So while this guidance is helpful for those who do not understand the difference between a real blog and a self-promotional newsletter, the most useful guidance on setting up and maintaining a well-read blog should come from marketing and PR resources who understand the medium. Otherwise, just post your Chambers ranking or Super Lawyers listing on your bio.

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First Responders to Breaking News Make Client Alerts More Valuable Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:47:10 +0000

As I am monitoring the news about the change in the relationship between U.S. and Cuba, I received a client alert from Venable LLP’s International Trade Group. The authors of the alert recount some of the details that have already been reported by the media, but break down what the news means for companies that want to export their goods and services to Cuba including changes in restrictions currently administered by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that prohibits trade to that country.

We have talked in the past about client alerts in a perfect PR world.  Not only being first out the gate with an alert but providing specific ideas of how the development will positively or negatively impact business operations. In Venable’s case, the International Trade Group is proving they are on top of one of the most significant foreign policy developments of 2014 while reminding their clients and contacts that they are accessible as resources as the policy developments continue into 2015.

Here is where your PR team comes in. The ready made content should be sent to the media right away as they continue to report on the story and reporters rush to find sources for reaction. Thanks to Venable, they do not have to look far.


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Blogs Create Powerful Connections to the Media Tue, 16 Dec 2014 00:32:42 +0000

UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh is a great example of the power of leveraging a blog as a media resource. In contrast to the lack of lawyers or firms commenting on the Sony Pictures hack, Mr. Volokh uses his blog: The Volokh Conspiracy, which is hosted by the Washington Post, as a way to effectively talk on a topic where most are refusing comment. Today alone Volokh’s blog is referenced in two high profile media outlets including the WSJ Law Blog. Why? He is making it easy for the media to find him via simple online searches. Also, he tackling a timely news story most media outlets around the world are covering. Add to that, he is providing thoughtful commentary on an important issue: whether the media has the right to use the stolen emails in their reporting. He goes beyond covering what is already out there by offering his opinion on the core issue of whether the media could be liable.

Why am I a huge fan of blogging? Blogging is a ready-made platform to discuss cases or topics that the media is covering or should be covering. By providing good commentary and references to cases or research that busy reporters want when deadlines are fast approaching, you make it easy to be the source of choice for broader media. Reporters love reputable sources, such as Volokh, who teaches first amendment law UCLA. Blogs offer an extra ounce of credibility, makes the author accessible and commentary makes the expert a resource.

In many cases, the content created through blogging is pulled directly from the site, making it easy for a reporter to use the blog author as a source without having to pick up the phone or send a request for interviews. And as an added bonus, it gives your PR firm extra content to push out to various news outlets that have yet to discover your block.

As a former media hack, this PR flack appreciates someone like Volokh.


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Don’t Expect PR to Bring in the Business Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:28:01 +0000

At a recent new business pitch I was asked the question that almost always comes up with prospective clients: How quickly will I see new business from our PR investment? PR alone is not magical it is just one of many resources an organization must invest in for new business. Too often people expect PR to do all of the work without.Firms need to also spend money on strategic advertising opportunities, sponsorships and memberships in trade groups. When asked about the ROI of PR my answer is always the same: You can’t expect PR to bring in the business. Of course it does happen and I have great examples of how that has worked, but often those firms are already doing other things in the market to build their reputation and develop business.

A law firm’s PR program is only a small piece of the overall business development pie. I realized long ago that it is important to set expectations up front about what PR can do and should do for your firm and how it relates to a brand and business development efforts. I strongly believe B2B PR creates the tools to make it easier for a firm or individual attorney to reach out to prospective clients. An article provides an excuse to send a note to a client or and an interview with a publication provides the content to post an update on a LinkedIn profile.  A promotion of a speaking engagement provides an excuse to showcase an attorney on the home page of a website.

To expect every effort to result in new business is a recipe for disappointment.  A PR professional who sells you on something otherwise should not be hired.

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Public Relations Advice for Lawprenuers Tue, 23 Sep 2014 00:06:13 +0000

Whether you are a lawyer or legal marketing professional, public relations is an effective way stand out from the crowd. It’s no longer an option in today’s business environment, especially if your goal is to generate business.

I was recently featured on the podcast Lawprenuer Radio, a program that offers advice for attorneys who consider themselves entrepreneurs. The public relations insights I offer listeners is applicable to any professional who wants to generate name recognition among clients and potential clients.

You can listen on the site here or check out Lawpreneur Radio Show on iTunes!

I look forward to your comments and feedback about the show.

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Legal Reporter at Ars Technica Talks Good PR Mon, 22 Sep 2014 17:05:12 +0000

A big part of the being a resourceful PR professional is staying up-to-date on when reporters move jobs as well as what they want from us in their new positions.  Legal PR Advice asked David Kravets, a senior reporter at Ars Technica where he gets his sources and stories for the popular online news site.

Here are some questions:

Q. Tell me about your contribution to ArsTechnica how it differs from your position at

A. I became the senior editor at Ars Technica in April. I write about pretty much the same topics I covered as senior writer for Wired. I cover security, privacy, intellectual property, crime, legal matters and other material as it relates to the tech world. At Wired, I solely wrote. However, at Ars Technica, I write and also supervise our coverage for all of the topic areas I just described. Internally, we call it the “policy” beat.

Q. Who or what are your best sources?

A. My best sources are usually lawyers and me pounding the pavement.

Q. What makes a professional a good, quotable source?

A. Some advice to lawyers speaking to the media, is as follows: Try not to use jargon and try to get a sense of the reporter’s understanding of the topic so as to speak on their level. Sometimes a reporter is quite informed on the topic, other times not. Some reporters understand the legal system, and plenty do not. In my view, good quotes are the ones that speak smartly about the topic. Other reporters might want something more flashy or fist-pounding. Use your own judgement, but at least know the difference.

Q. What was the best story pitch you have received recently and why?

A. One of the best tips I got recently at Ars Technica was a call from a lobbyist to give me a heads up on the US Copyright Office’s triennial review of DMCA regulations. We talked about what new proposals might be made and by whom. Obviously, we talked about the lobbyists’ interest in the story as well.​

Q. What was the worst?

A. The dumbest story pitch I received recently was one with this headline: “A funny and smart video that describes the first App that allows users to book clean private home toilets (at least according to other users’ reviews) instantly for a few dollars.”
They even produced a YouTube video about it. Yet, there was no such app. So the app, which was ridiculous as could be, didn’t even exist.

Q. Since all of your stories published online, what is the best time to contact you? Are you on a daily deadline or is it hourly?

A. The best time to tip me to a story is at the earliest in the day as possible, and with plenty of time to check it out before action on whatever it is takes place. Whenever anybody asks me what my deadline is, my standard answer is “yesterday.” That said, we can publish at any time, any day of the week.

Q. Do you want evergreen stories or do you want to know what’s happening now?

A. The tips can be about breaking, soon-to-break or feature-length planned stories.

Q. You are also the guy behind the Yellow Daily News. Is it helping you raise your profile in the tech industry or are you doing it just for fun?

A. My personal blog is called TheYellowDailyNews. It’s is parody and satire that I publish once a day Monday through Friday. I do it purely for fun and to write about the absurdity of the world as I see it. Because I make a living reporting about others’ views, TheYellowDailyNews gives me a relief valve from that. I make no money from it. The only marketing I do, if it can be called marketing, is I post TYDN stories to my Facebook friends, to my Twitter followers and to my Linkedin connections.

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The Accidental Journalist: How Blogging Turned into a Journalism Gig Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:31:45 +0000

Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles wrote about his experience as a blogger and now a journalist.  He gave me permission to post this article which originally appeared on MuckRack.

“I appreciate your fair coverage of the Writers Guild strike,” read the short email I received almost seven years ago. This was gratifying, but also startling, because I wasn’t covering anything. That’s what reporters do, and I wasn’t one. I was an entertainment/technology attorney who was just doing some blogging.

Well, actually, a lot of blogging. I was posting every other day.

A lot of it was original, in-depth analysis, but I didn’t equate that with reporting. I’d also become an oft-quoted interview subject on the strike and other entertainment law and business subjects, but I knew that didn’t make me a journalist.

And yet, there it was: my “fair coverage.” It was certainly true that I was trying to be fair. But the “coverage” part remained a puzzle.

A few months later, a newspaper reporter who’d been quoting me with regularity abruptly stopped. When I rather inappropriately asked why, his answer was immediate: “because you’re a competitor now.”

And he was right, since my blog was being read by key leaders throughout the industry and I was occasionally breaking stories. I was still a lawyer and blogger, but had somehow lost my amateur standing.

My journey towards journalism had begun almost imperceptibly in early 2007 when my law firm, TroyGould, engaged a PR firm to get us in the press and attract more business. The publicist, Cheryl Bame, began to find me placements on various websites and also persuaded me to start blogging.

By mid-year, negotiations between the Hollywood studio alliance and the screenwriters union – the Writers Guild – were in the news as discussions began to founder primarily on the rocks of the Internet. Even back in 2007, new media business models were beginning to outrun the barnacle-encrusted collective bargaining agreements that govern Hollywood labor relations.

Since my law practice encompassed new media and I had once worked at the Guild, albeit a decade and a half earlier, Cheryl audaciously positioned me as an expert and set up a lunch with Variety. I wasn’t so confident, but after reacquainting myself with the details of the nearly incomprehensible 400-page union agreement, I realized I now knew more about the contractual disagreements than almost anyone except the partisans themselves.

The meeting with Variety went well, and to my surprise I began to get quoted. I reached out to other media and found willing ears at almost every outlet. And I discovered I had a talent for soundbites.

Into the Spotlight

In November, the writers’ negotiations collapsed and a bitter strike began. The story was white hot, and it was easy for me to find the journalists on the beat, because the Guild and the studio alliance had each posted clipping files on their websites. They’d also posted their contract demands – pages of legalese like this, replete with references to reruns, residuals, receipts, ringtones and things like “Article 13.B.5.a.(8)” – pretty much anything that started with an “R” or sounded  like it, as Lewis Carroll might have observed.

It all made sense to pretty much no one except those trained in the field – which I was. Few others were, and none of them were talking, save occasionally for the partisans on both sides. I steered a middle course, and soon an avalanche of outlets began to contact me, for background as well as quotes.

I found myself sometimes doing six interviews a day, one day even an NPR phoner from the aisle of a Southwest jet. My inboxes overflowed with journalists. Even my blog got on TV. It was wonderful insanity.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post invited me to blog on their platform, and I somehow found time to write, a lot. Fall turned into winter, and still the writers struck, both in LA, where “winter” is a relative term, and New York, where it isn’t. Actors supported the picket lines and boycotted the January Golden Globes, destroying the ceremony and turning the event into a cut-rate press conference. Globes without glamour presaged the possible fate of the Oscars, and with that deadline looming, both sides blinked and finally reached a deal in February 2008.

After the strike ended came a couple months of relative quiet, and then with growing violence the Screen Actors Guild began to tear itself apart over the same Internet issues that the writers, directors and even another actors union had already settled. A second strike seemingly loomed, though in the end what resulted was more of a lockout. Feature film production slowed to a crawl as the SAG contract expired, and the summer brought doldrums for the movie business.

But not for reporters. With blood once again in the water, the coverage ratcheted back up, and once again I was blogging and getting interviewed while juggling my law practice. BBC phoners from the Cannes Film Festival were fun, as was my Los Angeles Business Journal guest piece, also Cannes-datelined, that led with “Do loose clips sink ships?” – a reference to just one of the many arcana that bedeviled the actor’s union (clip consent, or the right to control the Internet use of short clips of TV shows and movies).

Later I wrote an investigative article, “Inside the SAG Boardroom,” which exposed the shenanigans that ensued during a bizarre 28-hour closed meeting of the Guild’s 80-member board of directors. Weeks later came a suit against the union by its own president. If the writers strike had been a tragedy of poor negotiation, the SAG stalemate was history repeating itself as farce, seemingly without end.

When the discord finally calmed down, in mid-2009, so did my life. I occupied some of my new spare time turning the blog posts into a book, Hollywood on Strike!, and figured that my days in the middle of breaking news were over, at least until the inevitable next Hollywood labor disturbance. That was an event I pegged at six to nine years out, with an eye on the triennial contract cycles of the high-profile writers, actors and directors unions. But I was missing a piece of the puzzle.

Opportunity Knocks

In July 2010 – after a scant year of labor peace – I got a call from Matt Belloni, then an editor (and now executive editor) at The Hollywood Reporter. “We hear that the Teamsters might strike,” Matt said, referring to the truck drivers who move Hollywood equipment and who could shut the town down even more quickly than the writers had. “Do you know anything about that?”

There was something unusual about the call, and not just that another labor disturbance would have required history to do a hat trick. Matt didn’t cover labor, and his question was an oddly open-ended way of beginning an interview. What was up?

“No,” I replied cautiously, drawing out the vowel and ending with something approximating a question mark.

“Do you want to look into it and write about it for us?” Matt asked.

I stared at the phone. This was certainly unexpected.

“Does it pay?” I asked. The HuffPo didn’t, of course, but I wasn’t going to be a reporter for free.

“Yes,” Matt answered, “though not as well as being a lawyer.” I could live with that. I’d admired journalists since Woodward and Bernstein.

My first piece on the Teamsters appeared a few days later, top of page one, bumping Leo DiCaprio to what would be below the fold if the 8-1/2″ x 11″ format had a fold. I wrote four or five other pieces. A month after the situation resolved – no strike this time – I pitched a different story and wrote several more articles.

Not long after, I was named a contributing editor. I’ve covered labor for THR ever since, as well as various legal and other matters (Hollywood sex abuse lawsuits, the Aereo Supreme Court case, a trip to Mars and more), as my Muck Rack portfolio reflects.

I also freelance – and, in what is no doubt an unusual arrangement, I continue to practice law. Although the time commitments sometimes clash, it works, because I don’t practice in the specific areas that I cover, and because I avoid conflicts of interest in both professions. In fact, being a lawyer has helped me immeasurably with stories and sources, as has my computer science background prior to law school.

Is my journey a snapshot from the future or just an unusual outlier? That’s a story for someone else to write.

Some say blogging will be the end of journalism. Maybe – but for me, at least, it was also the beginning.


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Client Alerts in a Perfect World Fri, 05 Sep 2014 17:00:13 +0000

In a perfect world, PR professionals would be alerted when a lawyer or team of attorneys starts writing a client alert. That’s because many client alert ideas are generated way before the finished product is posted to a website or sent to my inbox.

I realize that the attorneys do not often think of us when they see something that is newsworthy or a development in their industry that their clients need to know about. But, I wish they would. If given the heads up, we, as PR professionals, can do more than just try to find a home for an alert that most often is days or weeks old, and posted well after the media has moved on from its coverage.

Here are some tips to help your attorneys think of PR before they put fingers to a keyboard:
1. When you hear or read of a development in the law or your target industry, contact someone in a communication role before you start writing. It’s simple, but attorneys need to be reminded.
2. Provide the PR professional a brief (two – four sentences of what this means for the industry or your clients). We do not need the entire alert to generate media interviews or secure an article.
3. Let us know when the client alert is going to be ready. This way, we can get a deadline to the editor.

What you should know is that more and more trade publications are requiring first run articles. That means if your attorneys post a blog or client alert to a website, the editors will look at it as previously published material and may not consider it for their publication. So, make sure the client alert is brief and not a full article.

It’s unfortunate that many PR professionals, whether in-house or outside a firm, are the last to know. In a perfect world, we would be the first.

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Congrats! You Are the Best Lawyer. Now What? Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:42:13 +0000

Best Lawyers Congrats! You Are the Best Lawyer. Now What?  Congrats! You have been chosen as one of the best lawyers in America. The best place to post this listing is your bio, the firm’s website, the news section under press releases. You can even send it out via social media channels. But, do not send it to a newspaper expecting it will make the cover of that publication or a feature story will be written about you.  Especially if you are in big media markets like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. I was at lunch today with a legal industry reporter who said she continues to get press releases from law firms announcing rankings by other news outlets.

“I used to respond with a note that we do not cover these lists,” She said.  “Now, there are too many press releases. It would take me all day to reply.”

We can all agree there are too many of these rankings and awards, many that list hundreds of lawyers from around the world.  How can anyone expect each announcement to be picked up?

 “Frankly, she said, “It’s not really news.”

In smaller media markets, publications may use this content, but not in places where reporters are covering more significant announcements like firm mergers, notable lateral moves or even interesting cases or legal issues. Just because lawyers want the world to know about their upward trajectory in the legal industry, especially when it is noted by a news outlet, does not mean you should push send.

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Going Viral: Ice, Ice Baby! Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:12:15 +0000

Unknown Going Viral: Ice, Ice Baby!Have you dumped a bucket of ice over your head yet?  If not, you may be the only person to not participate in ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge. Anyone who studies the practice of PR has to give props to the ALS Association for its cool idea.  Here is how it started.

News reports indicate even ALS was surprised its challenge went viral and it dominated social media this past weekend.  Many of my friends and family members posted videos on Facebook responding to “the challenge”.   I was called on too, but I could not manage to get a bucket of ice together within 24 hours, so I made a contribution instead.

It’s a challenge for any organization trying to stand out among the thousands of other non-profits doing annual fundraising.    But, thanks to social media and the power of sports stars and entertainers, fundraising can be even more engaging and successful. As of August 18, ALS has raised over $15.6 million.

While it may not be obvious or easy for any law firm to take a page from the ALS playbook or to ask its contacts or clients to dump ice over their heads for a cause, it is not unreasonable idea to have them participate. One law firm Venable LLP generated great PR as a result. And, many other attorneys and law firms accepted the challenge.   I challenge a law firm to come up with an equally great idea that would cause the media to spin out of control.

It’s the ultimate example of an great idea that will be used in PR classes and seminars around the country.   Kudos to the folks at the ALS Association for dumping the coolness factor on the heat of the summer.

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