An authored or bylined article may not be the most glamorous deliverable but this mainstay of legal PR is often the most effective tool available in terms of raising the profile of an individual lawyer and their team.
While there are opportunities for lawyers and other professionals to write for top nationals such as The Times and FT, competition for commissions will be fierce. Probably the easiest way to secure a first commission is to focus on the sectors that the law firm operates in and to target the trade press for each specific sector. This also has the advantage of guaranteeing that the article will reach the key target audience: existing and potential clients.
With an enormous range of niche titles, the UK B2B business press is amongst the most sophisticated in the world. It provides plenty of opportunities for PR- savvy lawyers and their advisers to secure bylined commissions. For example, a law firm construction team would almost certainly look to target Building and Construction News, both of which boast massive circulations and are hugely influential within their sector.
Once target publications have been identified, the next step would be to pitch appropriate themes with a brief synopsis to the commissioning editor. Ideally these themes will have some kind of topical news hook. For example, they might involve an impending piece of legislation or a case that sets a precedent. Another common approach is to present a frequent or emerging problem confronting the lawyer’s client base and provide a solution.
Once a commission has been secured, it is worth remembering that although few titles will hold contributors to a licensing agreement, there is an unwritten rule that an article will be provided on an exclusive basis.
Below are three simple tips to make sure the article is a good read.
Use accessible language – as detail people, this is where lawyers can become a little unstuck. Complex legal jargon must be avoided so if an article is technical, strip it back. If the author is not hugely familiar with the title he is writing for provide one or two recent articles to help provide a guide to the style and tone of the publication.
Use specific examples - where possible use statistics to back up a statement and provide one or two ancedotes to help bring an argument to life.
Have an opinion – while impartiality is sometimes required, it’s perfectly ok to be opinionated. For an op-ed article, it is essential, so remind the author that providing some sort of opinion will make an article more engaging.
In contrast to providing comment on a breaking news story which may never get picked up, offering an article on a topical issue provides a much more targeted approach to PR. Word count guides for leading trade titles are usually only around 600-800 words, hardly onerous for a clever lawyer. It would be highly unusual for an editor not to honour a commission so coverage is almost guaranteed.
Seeing their name in print can be a huge boost for an individual lawyer and it can pay dividends in terms of showcasing the author as a thought leader thereby enhancing credibility in the market.
Want to write a piece for the Financial Times opinion page? Read this first, say the people who edit it Brooke Masters Here at the Financial Times opinion section, we want to hear from you. Every day, we publish several articles by guest writers. Some are commissioned by us; others we select from proposals that come to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. Publishing external voices is a key part of our interaction with our readers. We particularly relish pieces that highlight unexpected places, explore new ideas and illuminate diverse points of view. We also want our opinion pieces to be punchy, readable articles that make strong arguments; and we have a soft spot for writers who demolish conventional wisdom or dissent from opinions we have already published.