The press release has been in use since 1906, when Ivy Lee convinced the Pennsylvania Railroad to openly disclose information to journalists regarding the Atlantic City train wreck. Edward Bernays refined its use in 1915 creating a press kit for reporters promoting the then unpopular Ballet Russe in 1915.
One hundred years later, despite the changes in the form and manner of communication, the simple press release is still an effective way to promote your law firm. A press release can generate a news story and help clients, future clients, and fellow lawyers find you. It highlights your legal expertise and provides content for your website, blog, and social media.
What is a press release?
It is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media to announce something newsworthy. It may be called a press release, news release, media release, press statement, or video release.
What can you promote with a press release?
A well-written press release generates power, passion, and publicity. Law firms use press releases to draw attention to such events as:
- Legal awards given by bar associations
- Notable verdicts or settlements
- Community & alumni recognition awards
- Future workshops for the public or other lawyers
- Appointment to boards
- Law firm mergers
- Filing of law suits with public policy implications
- Hiring of new associates
- New publications by members of the firm
- Announcement of new office or new location
A press release is short, only four to five hundred words. And, like a legal brief and by custom, it follows a particular format. Following a line with the date, city, and state, the release starts with a headline and a subhead. The headline announces the reason for the release. To be read, it needs to be pithy, powerful, and to the point. L & L Law Firm hires new associate.
It is followed by a subhead of one or two lines of italicized text supporting the title: Nancy New Lawyer joins the Lansing firm focusing on family law. The subhead plays off the title, offering more description. With these two lines, the reader knows the name of the law firm, its location, and the subject of the release.
The opening paragraph of your release should cover the ‘who, what, why, where, and how’ of your new update, win in court, event, or development. Reporters and others have little time to sift through details or background information. Readers simply need the facts of the story to determine if they should pursue it further.
The next paragraph can include more information such as a quote from one of the principals of the firm underlining the importance of the announcement and how it affects your practice and client base. If the release announces a verdict, settlement, or suit filing, include enough facts so the reader can verify the information.
The last paragraph is a description of the firm. Include a summary of your practice area, hyperlink your law firm’s website and other social media, and include contact information. Think of it as an elevator pitch; it’s usually only five sentences used and re-used in press releases, so while it may not be easy to write one the first time, the effort will pay you back on future releases.
Who should receive the press release?
Law firm press releases are sent to editors in the news sections of local media, legal publications, business publications, and alumni magazines. Other possibilities include your local bar association newsletter and publications that cover specialized topics such as personal injury litigation or intellectual property.
To increase the chances of publication, check the requirements for submission and the name of the editor. Also be sure to upload the press release to your new expanded SBM member profile page by logging in to your Zeekbeek account, select "Add," "Submit a Publication," and select "Press Release" from the drop down menu "Select Media Type" box.
A well-written press release creates personal and professional connections, keeps the local community informed of important changes in your law firm, develops website content, and cultivates relationships with the media. It’s worth keeping in your marketing plans.
Roberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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