In the era of online content marketing, the press release seems as quaint and outdated as the fax machine. But a well-written, concise, timely press release remains one of the most potent vehicles for getting your law firm’s story in front of important audiences.
If anything, press releases are more important today than they were back in the day when they took over newsroom fax machines and made one of my editors “cry for the trees” they were written on. (Fortunately for those trees, press releases are now almost entirely distributed electronically. You’re welcome, Earth.)
The reason press releases are more important today is that we’re no longer solely, or even primarily, interested in winning over increasingly hard-to-win-over reporters. Lawyers and law firms that use content marketing are essentially their own publishers now. As long as you have a website, social media, or email (ideally, all three), you can tell your own story directly to your clients and potential clients.
Need help telling your story in a concise, well-written press release? That’s why we’re here! Muse Communications was named Dallas’ best legal public relations firms by the readers of Texas Lawyer (although we represent clients all over Texas). Just drop us a line.
Why write a press release?
Here’s why a good old-fashioned press release is still a great way to get your story out there:
You set the tone
If there is more than one side to a story — and there usually is — whoever tells the story first has the advantage because everyone else has to respond to that version. Your press release can provide an accurate timeline and recitation of the facts, as well as establish who is the proper source for more information.
Your hands are tied, in a good way
Press releases follow a formula, the same formula most news stories follow: most important information up top, a few paragraphs of explanation, a quote or two from important players that put the news in perspective, and, usually, a boilerplate paragraph about your firm. That formula forces you to tell your story clearly and concisely. And, ideally, it forces you to do all that in 400 words or less (online press release distribution services, like PR Newswire, tack on an extra charge for releases longer than 400 words, so brevity is usually in your economic best interests as well). The process of writing a press release helps you see your story the way others will see it and tell it more effectively.
Boost your SEO
Search engines reward websites that provide new, relevant content with better rankings. Posting news releases regularly and driving traffic to them via social media, online distribution, and email can ultimately help your firm’s website achieve a higher ranking on search results.
Tell stories the media won’t
If you win a $500 million verdict, lots of publications will write about it. But if you get named to a “best lawyer” list, or you get appointed to an important, but arcane, task force, or you hired a new associate, don’t expect the news media to care. But that doesn’t mean nobody cares. Clients appreciate knowing that their lawyers are well-regarded by their peers, and that arcane task force may be devoted to a subject near and dear to your clients, and that new associate is a sign that your firm is healthy and growing.
Getting the Word Out
Once you have a draft of your release, run it past fresh eyes (preferably someone who knows when to use “that” vs. “which” and who is familiar with AP style) and make sure it gets a solid edit. Then it’s time to get it distributed.
Free and paid distribution services
There are many free and paid press release distribution services. The most popular paid services are PR Newswire and Business Wire. Using those services can cost between several hundred and more than $1,000 to distribute a 400-word release, more if you add photos. That being said, they have tremendous reach and can get your news into more hands than you could possibly do on your own. There are also scads of free press release distribution services that offer limited online distribution of your release. Most will offer upgraded distribution for a small fee. Just search for “free press release distribution” for options. I have yet to encounter one that is all that good, but let me know if you find one.
If you have a release that is potentially newsworthy, you’ll want to send it directly to those reporters who cover the subject. Spend some time assembling a list of reporters and their email addresses and send them the release as the text of the email, NOT as an attachment. Feel free to follow up to see if they received the release, but don’t be offended if you don’t get a reply. Reporters can receive hundreds of news releases each day, so the bar is high to get their attention. Make sure you’re sending it to the right reporter AND that your subject line is descriptive and eye-catching (e.g. “Smith Jones law firm lands high-profile litigator” is more likely to be opened than “Announcement from Smith Jones law firm.”)
Your firm’s website
Make sure any official firm news is captured on your firm’s website, either on your blog page or, if you have one, your “News” page.
Share the news with your email network of clients, prospective clients and referral sources. This is great fodder for your firm’s newsletter, but if the news is big enough, it could be a stand-alone e-announcement.
Although press releases may feel archaic, they’re anything but. They are, in fact, one of the building blocks of a solid content marketing program.
Amy Boardman Hunt is all about helping lawyers find their voice and showcase their expertise. She has written, edited, and distributed more press releases than you’ve had cheeseburgers. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find great hiking spots in Dallas. If you know of any – or you need a legal marketing muse – drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.