Updated: Jan 8, 2021
Lawyers are a crucial source of information in the media, often providing valuable insight into current events, ongoing cases, and controversial topics. Becoming a prominent figure in the media strengthens your brand in a number of ways. First, it helps you get in front of more people who could benefit from your services. Second, it solidifies your expertise and encourages confidence among consumers. Finally, it puts you in a position to network with professionals from related fields.
However, to glean any of these benefits, you must know how to conduct yourself with the media. A simple gaffe can go viral, bringing all the wrong types of attention to your brand and weakening your credibility. Enter media training: a tool that helps lawyers learn how to interface effectively with the media—whether for a sit-down in-depth interview or a 30-second soundbite.
Goals of Media Training
Media training programs vary in scope and outcomes, but the same goals tend to come up across different courses. Attorneys who complete media training should feel and look comfortable and confident when in front of a television camera. Effective communication is essential in everything a lawyer does, but it’s even more crucial for those who have a media presence. Editing, guiding questions, and audience prejudices can warp a well-intended message, and transparent communication minimizes those risks.
Effective programs also draw clear distinctions between different types of media and the type of preparation needed for each one. In some cases, an attorney may be called upon to offer a short opinion on an ongoing case. In another, they may do a deep dive on a concluded case with an investigative reporter.
Another goal that courses often address is getting in front of the media. Lawyers in some areas of practice have an easier time establishing a presence than others. Those who prosecute or defend a major case are often given a platform by default. The same is true for family law attorneys who regularly work with high-profile celebrities or entrepreneurs during divorce or custody issues. However, it can be more difficult for an IP attorney or environmental law attorney to command the attention of the press. Many courses in media training help attorneys form various areas of practice catch the ever-wandering eye of the press.
Avoiding Mishaps and Missteps
Knowing what you shouldn’t say is, perhaps, even more important than knowing what you should say. In its pursuit of the truth, the media may misrepresent an expert’s opinion or use it to suit a specific agenda. Attorneys must be able to navigate these issues and ensure that bias does not cloud the core meaning of their message. Part of this is translating legal terminology into language that is easy for the general population to understand.
Another part of this is carefully considering your words and how they may be perceived. Some programs assist lawyers in playing devil's advocate when looking at their own talking points. Rather than just looking at how a sympathetic or neutral party might interpret a statement, this approach suggests coming at the statement from a critical or unfavorable viewpoint. Doing this allows an attorney to find unclear or easily twisted language in their statements and replace it.
Contrasting the Court of Law with the Court of Public Opinion
Across the board, media training for lawyers helps attorneys recognize the difference between the courtroom and the public eye. Trying to prove a point with a media presence is entirely different from winning a case in a legal setting. Trying to apply the standards of one to the other results in misunderstandings, weak or ineffective language, and a forgettable message. When you are being interviewed by the press, be sure to keep your audience in mind and your end goal for participating in the interview. This will be helpful in maintaining the right tone and message to reach the audience in the intended way.
Attorneys of all levels of experience and from all areas of practice benefit from media training. Consider adding this to your list of personal goals if you want to use your knowledge and experience to elevate your presence in your community.
Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC. She is one of the most visible legal professionals in Colorado law with over 20 years of service in the Denver legal community. Her award-winning marketing firm has earned a strong reputation as the go-to for impactful, cost-effective legal marketing strategies. She has helped her clients secure coverage by well-known publications and has obtained local, national, and international awards on their behalf. Meranda enjoys working with solo practitioners and small law firms helping them attract recognition, promotion, and visibility to their practices. She also advises medium-sized and national law firms on business development and marketing strategy. Meranda is a lecturer and author on issues related to marketing including how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, how to develop a personal brand, and the promotion of legal services through community service. In 2018, she was honored to be named to the 40 Under 40 list by the Denver Business Journal and to be given the 10 Under 10 Award by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association (top 10 alum of the decade). In 2019, Meranda was named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce and in the Top 100 young professionals in Colorado through the Gen XYZ Awards published by ColoradoBiz Magazine.
For more information, go to www.DenverLegalMarketing.com