One of the mainstays of legal PR and marketing has always been the appointment of new people; you’ve just hired a new partner, associate or executive and you think the world should know about it.
The most straightforward option for most law firms would be the appointment press release; a brief article which explains the strategic objectives behind the new member’s appointment and the benefits it will have for clients.
Before you get started there are a few important questions you need to ask yourselves.
Who is your audience?
Broadly speaking there are two reasons law firms have for making announcements about a new appointment(s). Firstly it can help raise the profile of your business amongst your peer group (ie other law firms or graduates) and secondly it could do the same for your customer base.
Ask yourself which is more important to your firm? Are you hoping to attract more individuals as part of a recruitment drive? If so then the legal trade press would be an important audience for you to reach. Or perhaps you want attract the attention of local businesses or a specific trade that you’re hoping to win more business from? If so, then your local paper (some are still thriving despite reports of their iminent demise) or business community newsletter could be a good option.
Similarly, most commercial trades have their own media; trade magazines and web sites are often a good route for a carefully written appointment press release to find an audience.
You may decide that your news is important enough that you want to target every outlet possible. Nevertheless, choose carefully about where to direct your message before you get writing.
The press release – frame your story
Your press release will depend on a variety of things; How senior is the individual(s) being appointed to your firm? Are they bringing a new specialism to your practice? Will the management structure of your business be affected? Is your income likely to improve over the short or long term?
These are the types of questions that journalists are likely to have and this is why it’s essential to frame your story correctly. Provide some context for the appointment; has the individual joined from a rival? If so, which firm? Do they work for any interesting customers or have they acted in any significant cases? Do they have any opinions about market dynamics – perhaps the new appointment is keen to promote an issue of concern to other lawyers or clients?
The more you are prepared to move away from your comfort zone, the more likely a story is to be picked up.
Manage (your own) expectations
Depending on where you’ve targeted your announcement (see above) appointments tend very often to appear as news in brief or shorter stories at best. There are some ways to boost the likelihood of a bigger scoop such as providing a professional photograph or promising the story to one publication or outlet as an exclusive.
PR like this can have a limited impact on its own and needs to form part of a sustained approach to building a law firm’s profile. Following up the story yourself is an important part of building the reputation of that individual or team; revisit their practice after a set period of time – have they exceeded their targets? Are there more stories you can tell?
The appointment press release – dos and don’ts
- Keep your story simple; the most interesting part needs to be in the first sentence so less than 30 words to sum it all up is a good target
- If it’s a straightforward single hire, no more than 200-250 words long; for anything more it’s generally worth keeping to one side of A4 if possible
- If you have a budget, include a professional photograph; No photo at all is better than providing a bad one so avoid taking pictures on compact cameras indoors against a wall or company logo!
- Editors’ notes at the foot of the page are a good place to include details about your firm; don’t waste time in the press release explaining everything there is to know
- Be straightforward; include facts that provide sensible emphasis
- Try not to overdo it – journalists find it irritating when press releases include phrases like ‘the leading firm in xxx…’ or quotes revealing how ‘delighted’ the managing partner is.
- Send it to the right people; make a call to newsdesks at your target media outlets in advance to ask them which person is best to send appointment press releases to and then follow up once you’ve distributed