Does Your Firm Have an Appropriate Spokesperson?

While it is perfectly fine to name a public relations person as the primary contact for reporters in a press release, a reporter who gets the release will usually ask you for the name of an attorney involved in the matter who is able to speak on record about the news. A reporter is much more likely to write a story when he or she has access to the people who actually put together the deal or tried the case.

This means that you as a firm’s PR representative need to select an attorney spokesperson. The choice of a spokesperson is not a trivial one and must be made with considerable care and advance thought. Choosing the wrong spokesperson can significantly decrease the chance that a reporter will write a story about your matter – and in the worst case, can seriously damage the firm’s reputation with a key constituency, the press.

The ideal spokesperson will have the following qualities:

  1. He or she will know enough about the matter to answer a reporter’s questions fully and clearly. “Let me look into that” is not an acceptable answer to a reporter.
  2. He or she will be able to set aside time to talk to the reporter, within the reporter’s deadlines. “Let me get back to you tomorrow when I have time” is not an acceptable answer either.
  3. He or she will be able to explain the subject without legalese, in a way understandable to the average reader.
  4. He or she will not carry an inherent fear or distrust of reporters but will understand that a positive story by a reporter can become a source of good publicity and ultimately boost the firm’s business development goals.
  5. He or she will have a broad enough sense of the firm’s marketing and business development priorities so that he or she knows how to put forward key talking points that the reporter might well pick up in writing a story.

Clearly, not every lawyer will qualify, and the firm’s top trial lawyers or
best rainmakers may not be the best people to put in front of a reporter. The most important point is to think ahead and find the right person well in advance. And, train them if they need it.