On any given day, watching the crisis-driven 24/7 news cycle can give you whiplash. For an attorney hoping to siphon some of that mainstream media oxygen, it might seem impossible to get anyone to pay attention to a successful resolution or to showcase a client’s compelling case. The competition is fierce for airtime and print space but if you have a key element that makes a story newsworthy, you have a fighting chance to get some coverage.
If your firm is already handling huge cases that involve major disasters or prominent clients, congratulations you’ve hit the PR jackpot. This advice is for smaller law practices that don’t typically litigate high-profile cases with national media interest. While getting coverage may not seem as clear cut, that doesn’t mean you can’t land a story if you have some of the right elements. Here are eight key questions that will help you determine whether it’s hot or not.
Is it Topical?
This requires paying attention to stories that are already making headlines. If there’s a current crisis or an unfortunate incident that is strikingly similar to a case you have or recently resolved, this is your opportunity to share your insights. Timing is important if you want to join the discussion. Reporters are often looking to expand the subject and find sidebars to advance the issue. By piggybacking on this news topic, you can advance the story and offer valuable 3rd party commentary.
Is it Unusual?
Different is good when it comes to publicity. Does the lawsuit have unique elements, unusual clients or out-of-the-ordinary circumstances? There are many sad stories but if there’s something unusually egregious or tragic— that will grab attention. Sympathetic characters, severe damages or unusually callous defense tactics are also strong elements that can help make a reporter pay attention. If multiple plaintiffs are alleging the same bad behavior, this shows an unusual pattern that should have raised red flags.
Does it Have Impact?
If the lawsuit has wider implications that impact a wide swath of the community, it’s a news story. If your client is suing because of a dangerous condition, defective product or severe misconduct that could hurt someone else, you have a strong argument to alert the public to this potential threat. By publicizing your case, you’re performing an important public safety service to warn others about the potential danger to the community. Through discovery, attorneys have access to previously secret documents, video footage and emails that can expose wrongdoing and reporters are eager to report that type of information.
Is it Visual?
Visual images are a huge selling point, especially for TV outlets. If you’ve uncovered surveillance video, body camera footage or home video that helps your case, you have a much stronger pitch. Journalists will typically ask for photos or videos that help visually tell a story.
Does it Involve a Public Entity?
If taxpayers are on the hook for something a public entity does wrong, they should know about any litigation that may result in a judgment or settlement and news outlets will cover it. If your client has sued the government, the public has the right to know and any mistreatment by a public official or agency deserves scrutiny. If you have a lawsuit that involves public schools, law enforcement, metro buses or any public agency, this is an opportunity to shine a light on the issue.
Does it Involve a High-Profile Defendant?
Anytime a defendant company has a recognizable name, is publicly traded or is a Silicon Valley sweetheart, there’s an outlet that will cover it. Even if the company is not a household name, it is likely a major employer in a certain area or a leader in a specific business sector. When something out of the ordinary occurs that results in litigation, this will pique the interest of business journals, trade publications or local news outlets.
Is the Result Noteworthy?
Winning a jury verdict is an amazing feat and it’s understandable if you want to scream it from the hilltops. But It’s important to understand that the result must meet certain criteria for the public to care. If the case or the trial received press coverage before the verdict, there’s a good chance the outlet will want to report on the outcome. If the lawsuit never obtained any news coverage, then you have to consider the size of the judgment or the impact of the result.
Is it Emotional?
While lawyers offer important insight on issues, they are generally considered “talking heads” and are not the subject of the story. It’s critical to include your client in the piece to provide the human emotion that the public can relate to and empathize with.
If your case lands in one or more of these buckets, you have a good chance of getting some publicity on your case which can help get the attention of the defense and raise your firm’s profile. The next step is reaching out to the right media outlet with your best pitch or hiring a PR professional who can help make sure the pitch lands in the right hands. Gina Kaysen Fernandes