How Do You Work With Reporters? With A Little Common Sense and Methodology.


We’ve all been told it is good practice to have a relationship with reporters (and they are increasingly being pushed to scour the universe for content). Therefore, it’s key to your marketing and credibility-building activities to develop these relationships but it’s not always easy.  As much as reporters may want what you have to offer for a given moment in time, they don’t necessarily want you at their door when you want them.  Here are just a few reasonable and responsible ways to get their attention and keep you on solid footing with the press.

Go Swimming Where Reporters Fish.

At some point you have probably heard of any number of services that speed date reporters with sources.  The most popular are Help a Reporter OutProfNet, FlackList, SourceBottle and ReporterConnection. It’s a sweat-free exercise for you to create an account with one or more of these services.  The perks are that you will be able to share your press releases, post a profile which highlights your strong suit and your law practice and you’ll also be able to answer requests from reporters who may have need of your opinions and expertise in your chosen areas of law.

Post Your Media Contact Information

It’s so obvious we often miss this one. Have a clearly visible link on your professional website that says ‘Media’ or ‘Press’ (even ‘Speaking Engagements’).  This simple page should give very specific contact information on how to reach you precisely for these occasions. Make sure you have a link on your website that says “Press” or “Media,” and make sure that you give a specific contact name, email address and phone number for your press contacts. You may even want to suggest a specific ‘subject matter’ or designate an email address just for media contacts. Reporters scan twitter feeds, Google+ and other social media sites and if they find a great comment from you or article you wrote on point and want to follow through to reach you, be sure they can have easy and immediate access.  If they can’t, a busy reporter is going to go to the next name on their list because they have deadlines to meet.  It would be a shame to lose an opportunity for free press because you didn’t offer up something as easy as a ‘Press’ page.

Use Your Social Media Network for Soft Intelligence

Don’t just tweet and retweet. Sleuth. Set up a Twitter list of reporters you have found on Twitter, follow them, tweet and retweet their interesting information. Eventually, be bold enough to pitch an idea to a reporter to get your name out there.  You should do exactly the same thing on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has great searching tools to help you find media professionals. Just by looking at their bios you’ll learn the types of stories they cover.  You can even follow up with a Google search to see some of their written work and where it’s published. A good search allows you to reference their stories in any conversation you may have to show you did YOUR homework on them. And never be afraid to ask.  The only guaranteed ‘no’ in life is never to ask.

Put Chum in the Water

Use Facebook, Twitter, Google + and YouTube strategically. Make sure the content you are putting out there is an effective lure and will draw the eye of a reporter who is looking for newsworthy and human interest pieces. Are you predicting events?  Interpreting case law? Opining about new legal technology? Just got a gig on NPR? Put this information out there in an eye-catching way and these fishermen will bite.

Write that Damn Blog Already!

I’ve repeated this too many times to count. Reporters are avid readers of blogs (sometimes to their detriment as some may recall the famous April 1 joke perpetrated on the New York Times by a well known blogger) and the quality of your content will attract a reporter if they deem you write with authority about your expertise and your knowledge will benefit their readership.

Writing a Good Press Release is a Skill Worth Having

If you are intent on getting the announcement of your newest book out there, the large settlement your client was awarded, your appointment to the board of Bob’s Cheese and Donuts, learn how to write a good press release. With a great headline and worthwhile quote, these can be sent to editors of legal publications, relevant media and shared throughout social media.  Always, always include your contact info (hopefully they will also be directed to contact info on your ‘Press’ page on your website). Just make it easy for the reporters and you’ll have a much better chance of recognition.

Jump In A Reporter’s Shoes

If you want to understand what a reporter might need from you, try to think like they do. If you are able to comment on a high profile case, discuss a recent or pending change in the law which will impact a segment of population, can intelligently pontificate on a more nuanced topic that’s an offshoot of a timely news event, these are all of interest to reporters.  You might even have a lead you just provide so they’ll remember you the next time they need someone with your expertise. If you’ve done your google homework on a reporter you’ll certainly know their writing style, their audience, and their publications so you should be able to get creative enough to figure out what they could use. If you do your homework before you make the contact, chances are you’ll make further inroads with the reporter than if you don’t.

Don’t Become A Pest

Chatting on social media, dropping a note now and again as you get them to notice your name or your work is one thing. Deliberately harassing them thinking the squeaky wheel gets the oil is a whole other matter.  Just as your time is precious, so is theirs. They don’t need you telling them what is important to write about any more than you need your clients telling you how to handle their case. Be professional, cordial and get acquainted first with the reporters who you believe can help you as you help them. It takes time to know reporters individually but do so.  It’s a much smarter move than sending unpersonalized mass emails.

Document All Media Outreach

Keep track of all your media efforts.  This would include requesting copies of magazines with articles featuring your quotes, links to online video interviews, blog posts, podcasts, articles, and more.  You’ll want to do this so you can repurpose and promote through your social media channels.  If the opportunity presents itself, mention the reporter along with posting a link to an article. You’ll also want to put together a ‘portfolio’ of media activity because you never know when you will want to use in a future marketing piece, a book or on your website.

Connecting and developing relationships with reporters and the news media is just like networking with your colleagues and potential clients. Be professional, creative and smart. Reporters need reliable, responsible sources to help them do their job.  If you become a trusted source it is much more likely they will connect with you over and over rather than have to start the process over again.

From my personal experience I can say, the quicker you respond, the more accommodating you are to their schedule, the more they will call you.  Also, be a resource.  Many times, even after I’ve been interviewed, I volunteer to the reporter that whenever they can’t find someone, call me and I will see if I can find someone for them.  This has always proven valuable and I genuinely mean it.  I also ask for a copy of the publication or link and the reporters always provide.

Solo Practice University also has a great class called Clash of the Titans – Can Lawyers and Journalists Get Along with Paramjit Mahli. which is much more in depth and from an expert in the field.  Check it out!

Do you have any tips for dealing with reporters?

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