Two-way street: to gain the media coverage your firm desires, consider what you can do for reporters--not just the other way around.

Author:Bollman, Amber
Position:Cover story

Developing business takes time. That's the message law firm marketing professionals constantly repeat to the attorneys they support. Keep your relationships warm, look for regular "touch points" with your contacts and be patient. Don't get discouraged if there aren't immediate rewards. Building a book of business is a long-term commitment.

Reporters who cover law firms and the legal industry say many of these same lessons apply for marketers looking to generate favorable press coverage for their firms and visibility for their attorneys.

"I read all the press releases I receive," said Katelyn Polantz, a Washington-based ALM reporter who is published regularly in The American Lawyer and The National Law Journal. "I can't write about all of them because there are simply too many. But just because a release might not turn into a story immediately, that doesn't mean I'm not filing it away for future reference. That doesn't mean I may not come back to it at some point in the future or call you as a potential source for another story."

Reporters say communications from law firms--whether in the form of official press releases or informal story idea pitches--do inform their coverage and help them do their jobs more effectively. But the most productive approach for generating coverage is to engage and strengthen relationships with the press, even when there may not be an immediate payoff.

"A firm putting its lawyers in front of people like me is useful even if it doesn't immediately result in a quote," Polantz said. "It allows us to start building a rapport and a relationship of trust."

Allowing Access and Establishing Boundaries

Roy Strom, ALM's Chicago reporter, finds that his most compelling stories often relate to the future of law firms, including changes in management and succession issues, evolving law firm business models, and the impact of alternative service providers on the industry.

"I like to tell stories about people inside law firms who are making decisions," Strom said. "A lot of times firms will come up with some new product or say they are doing something different than their competitors. The story of the product or the idea is one thing, but I'd really like to be able to tell the story of the person inside the firm who pushed the idea forward. Who stood up and said, 'This is something we should do'? Those are the stories I'm drawn to."

Many firms like to describe themselves as "innovative" to promote the narrative that they are...

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