National vs. Local Media Coverage: What’s Better for Your Law Firm PR Campaign?

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Most law firm public relations strategies are founded on media coverage, but what type of press is best? With so many TV stations, newspapers, trade publications, magazines and other outlets to choose from—all ranging from local to national—it can be hard to determine where to focus your efforts to see the greatest ROI.

The truth is that no one type of press is better than another; what you choose depends on your law firm’s PR goals and the story you have to tell. To help you decide the best place to pitch your next story, we’re breaking down the two main categories of press: national and local.

Pros and Cons of National Press

The biggest benefit of getting your news in a national outlet is the potential that thousands or even millions of people will see it. The Wall Street Journal or CBS Evening News will obviously have many more viewers and readers than a local newspaper or TV station. When you have a major story, nothing beats the exposure that national press will give you.

Not only do national publications have larger audiences, but they also have more diverse audiences. Although every media outlet attracts its own particular type of viewer/reader, the fact that there are so many of them ensures there will be some variety. For instance, a business owner in Los Angeles might be watching Good Morning America at the same time as a stay-at-home mom in Montana. This is something to consider if your firm has a national presence or you’re trying to reach a wider audience.

This larger audience also gives national press (and therefore, any story they report on) more prestige. For example, virtually everyone is familiar with The New York Times. Even if someone has never read an issue, they still recognize that it’s a large, well-known media outlet, and they probably believe (at least subconsciously) that only important people and topics are included in it. If you’re quoted in a national outlet, it’s proof that you’re an expert—and that credibility can be easily leveraged.

The one downside of national press? It’s incredibly cluttered and fast paced. Your story could be one of hundreds that gets reported on during a single day, with countless new stories reported the next day and the day after. Your news may get lost in the shuffle, especially in an election year or when a big national story breaks. However, as with any media coverage, the real power comes from being able to leverage it; for example, posting on your website and social media, including in your e-newsletter, or handing out a reprint at a conference. Don’t rely on your target audience to have read yesterday’s The Washington Post or tune in to the evening news; make sure you’re magnifying press mentions by creating additional opportunities to get them in front of clients and prospects.

Pros and Cons of Local Press

Although national media is generally more prestigious, local media is more trusted. In a 2017 study, 61 percent of respondents said they trust local media more than national. Even as Americans are losing faith in the press overall, they still turn to local papers and broadcasts to learn about issues and trends—and they’re more likely to believe a story about your firm or your commentary on a particular topic in one of these outlets.

Pitching stories on your home turf also gives you a leg up. Your Los Angeles-based law firm might be an unknown entity to media on the east coast, but local reporters may already have some knowledge of your firm and you can more easily develop relationships so that when they have a need for a resource, they’ll contact you first. Additionally, even if the story is about a national trend, local outlets want to know how it’s impacting the surrounding community and you’re in a great position to be able to weigh in.

Despite the positives of local press, there’s potentially a huge drawback: local newspapers and TV stations are shrinking. Depending on the size of your market, your local newsroom may be down to a skeleton crew. Although national outlets are facing cuts as well, they still have more resources to report on stories more thoroughly. Local media may not be able to do the same and could turn down a pitch idea if they don’t have the bandwidth or it’s not super timely—but it’s important to note that if it’s the “right” story, outlets will figure out a way to work with you.

Another item of note: if your law firm’s PR strategy has worked and you’ve already gotten a story in the local press, don’t assume you’ve lost your chance at national coverage. National outlets pick up stories from local affiliates all the time, and the fact that your news has already been covered by a local reporter gives it even more credence.

Ready to Pitch a Local or National Outlet? Ask Yourself These Questions First

No matter where you decide to pitch your story, there’s one non-negotiable: it must be newsworthy. Reporters and readers need to care about your news, but how do you predict whether they will or not? If you can answer yes to a few of these questions, there’s a good chance your story is newsworthy.

  • Is it timely? People aren’t interested in yesterday’s news. Make sure your pitch is tied to something people want to know about right now, like a legal trend or the potential impact of pending legislation.
  • Is it significant? Is there a forthcoming decision that will affect people’s day-to-day lives? Is there a lot of money at stake in your case? Does your news involve a well-known person? Your story has to have some greater significance that will resonate with readers.
  • Does it have a human angle? People like reading stories that make them laugh, cry and connect with other people. Can you add a human touch to your pitch? While this may not be possible in every story idea, it’s an angle to consider, particularly in a firm profile pitch.
  • Does it have visuals? Great photos or a video immediately make a story more interesting and can make your pitch stand out from the hundreds of others hitting a journalist’s inbox. Multimedia also opens up new possibilities for how your story can be told and it’s more likely to stick with readers.
  • Do you have something to add? Perhaps you aren’t creating the news but adding your own perspective to an ongoing story. This is an excellent strategy, since reporters are always looking for subject matter experts who can bring fresh information to the conversation.

Whether you’re pitching local or national outlets, it’s important to have reasonable expectations for coverage, particularly if this is your first time conducting outreach. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t land that coveted media placement; use it as an opportunity to establish a good rapport with the reporter and continue to stay in front of them with story ideas you think they’ll be interested in.

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