For many lawyers and barristers the ultimate PR goal will be a piece of press coverage in The Times or FT or perhaps an interview on Sky News.
While a piece of national media coverage will always put a firm in front of a huge audience, it is always worth asking whether it is an audience you actually want to engage with? Given the amount of time and resource required to achieve national media exposure, a more pertinent PR strategy could be to focus on the sectors that the law firm operates in and to target the trade press for each specific sector.
With an enormous range of niche titles, the UK B2B business press is amongst the most sophisticated in the world providing plenty of opportunities for PR savvy lawyers to position themselves as experts in their field.
Take for example a law firm or barristers' set with a construction practice. The two leading sector titles, Construction News and Building both boast massive circulations and are highly influential within their sector. Given their depth of knowledge, editors and reporters on these titles will welcome comment or feature ideas from construction lawyers or barristers.
By way of contrast, as generalists advising all types of businesses, a corporate team may struggle to identify target B2B titles. Nevertheless, most corporate teams will have developed, sometimes unwittingly, expertise advising clients operating in niche areas and can use the trade press to target these clients. For example, a corporate team with a specialism advising fashion houses could seek to engage with Drapers. Recently, I have been working with a firm which has developed a specialism advising vets. The two leading titles, Veterinary Practice and Vet Times have a combined monthly circulation of 34,000. You can be certain that most vets will subscribe to one or the other.
There will be times when PR activity should focus on national press coverage. For a family or private client team, coverage in the personal finance pages of a daily or Sunday newspaper is probably the best way to gain traction. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that competition for coverage on a national will be fierce and when an opportunity does arise, the journalist may expect the called upon expert to drop everything at the last minute to provide an interview, something that is often tricky for a busy lawyer.
So while a good PR agency will always be on the look out for opportunities for clients to appear in the national press, a PR strategy that makes this a primary objective could well be missing a trick or two.
Developing a specialist practice Douglas McPherson, director and business development consultant at Size 10 ½ Boots, highlights the benefits of a niche strategy and how to use this approach to develop a more successful law firm Pushed by pricing pressures and a need to keep pace with technology and increasing client demands, more and more small and mid-sized law firms are rethinking their business models. While some are relenting to the merger offers from larger firms promising increased financial security, there is an alternative. Many firms have found that targeting particular sectors – either as a firm, a department or even as an individual practitioner – is helping to reduce competitive pressure and increase the efficiency of their marketing efforts.