The question of whether a law firm should host a press conference in relation to litigation publicity comes up quite often at our agency. It’s important to first determine why you would host a press conference, affectionately known as a “presser,” before asking how the law firm should host a presser.
The press conference involves someone speaking to the media at a specified time and place. The speaker controls the information they deliver and the media invited. There is a presumption that the speaker will answer questions posed by the media or other attendees.
Press conferences should be conducted sparingly unless you are a district attorney who handles high-profile matters of importance to the general public.
Questions to ask before hosting a law firm press conference
To determine when to host a press conference, ask:
- Is it in the best interest of your client and do you have their permission?
- Could a press conference violate ABA Model Rule 3.6?
- Will this story excite the media?
- Who cares about the topic?
- Does it involve death, scandal, consumer fraud, corporate misconduct, authorities acting badly, or criminal activities?
- Does it have celebrity appeal?
- Have your target media outlets covered similar topics in the past?
- Does your story have a wide consumer audience appeal?
- Is there a visual element to your story, a sympathetic cause, or a story that demands social justice?
- What kind of audience cares about the topic? Remember, not every trial result makes sense for a press conference.
As a rule of thumb, the only time a press conference makes sense is if your story warrants television coverage. Otherwise, it is more efficient and less expensive to contact individual members of the media with your story than to host an event at your office or off-site location.
Preparing for Your Law Firm Press Conference
As with any event, go through a strategic planning process. A press conference must be well planned and strategically executed to be successful. It is not just whom you invite but when you invite them that makes a difference.
For example, if you want to get coverage on the evening news, plan your press conference between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. That will give the reporters and camera crews enough time to attend your program, script their voiceovers, edit the video, and have it on the production floor in time for the evening news. It is rare that your press conference will be covered live unless it is a matter that is taking place on the courthouse steps in a case that has high publicity or celebrity appeal.
If you are going to host the press conference at your office, town hall, or other similar venues, determine the logistics of space and time. Consider seating, parking, security, and minimal refreshments.
If the press conference is in your law firm’s office, make sure other clients’ files are secured and not in plain view of your attendees.
Consider the backdrop behind the speaker or signage on a podium. If there are wide-angle photographs taken, everything comes into view.
- Is your firm name and logo visible?
- Are there any distractions?
- If you are at the site of an incident or at a corporate location, is there a view that tells the story?
Hire a professional photographer and videographer to capture the press conference. You will have the images and footage for other use; and if all heck breaks loose in another story on the same day as your press conference, you will have b-roll video to share so they may still cover your story.
Checklist for Law Firm Press Conference
The following items must be addressed when planning a press conference:
- Targeted media invitation list
- Location, date, time, and duration
- Media advisory and directions
- List of speakers with printed biographies
- Press kit
- Prepared Q&A for speakers
- Media training for speakers
- Refreshments and rental needs/seating for media
- Sound system and podium or lectern (conduct a sound check)
- Banner/backdrop with firm name and logo for photos; podium signage
- Photographer and/or videographer (professional)
- Parking (and will press vehicles be able to link up with satellite if live)
- Security (if it involves celebrities, politicians, VIPs, high-profile violent matters, or other sensitive matters)
As with all litigation public relations efforts, identify what you want to accomplish. Once you know your goal, you can choose the media outreach tools that will accomplish your objectives. Law firms must choose strategically, just as they would when choosing which evidence to present to opposing counsel in negotiations, or to the judge or jury at trial.
Author: Gina Rubel is an attorney and publicist who leads Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an agency supporting law firm growth and reputation management through integrated legal marketing, public relations, strategic planning, and crisis communications. This article has been modified from an excerpt in her book, Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers, 2nd Edition, to be published in 2019 with Attorney at Work. To purchase a copy of the book, go to https://www.attorneyatwork.com/law-practice-book/everyday-public-relations-for-lawyers-2nd-edition/. Gina can be contacted at 215-340-0480, firstname.lastname@example.org or @GinaRubel.