By: Sharon Berman and Kathy Pinckert,
Published: Los Angeles Business Journal
After a verdict, take advantage of media contacts before you’re old news.
Undeniably, trial publicity focuses attention on who you are and what you do. Yet, once the verdict is in, the media are off in search of the next big news story. So, before you become “old news,” it is wise to have a plan that enables you to take advantage of the limelight and constructively use its momentum to build your practice.
The basic “carry-forward” elements of a public-relations program at this stage include public speaking, publishing and networking, keeping in mind that media relations will continue to play a vital role, especially if there is an appeal. However, since appeals generally do not carry the sizzle of trials, they should not be relied upon as the foundation of a post-verdict publicrelations campaign.
Savvy lawyers will use the issues presented by the litigation to position themselves before key target audiences which they have identified as potential sources of new business, ranging from the general public to specific businesses and industries. For example, if you prevailed in a patent infringement suit over an airplane widget, you might target similar widget manufacturers, manufacturers in general, and/or widget inventors.
You should also consider exploring public- speaking opportunities at industry-related seminars, trade shows and conventions. Addressing bar associations is another way to enhance your reputation among your peers, and to create new referral opportunities. An excellent resource to help you develop a target list of organizations is “the Gale Research Company’s Encyclopedia of Associations (1988).” From that point, it is a matter of communicating with the organization, fine-tuning the subject matter, setting the date and, of course, giving the speech.
It is possible that you will also be sought out as a speaker by various groups and television, radio and Internet programs, with some willing to pay an honorarium or offer other attractive perks. If this is the case, make sure you are in compliance with current State Bar Rules of Conduct.
Public speaking does not guarantee that you will get immediate engagement offers. However, it is an investment in long-term image building, stemming from your trial publicity. Importantly, it affords you the opportunity to network at the speaking event, gather additional names for your database, and it opens the door to growing relationships via personal invitations and direct-mail communications such as brochures and newsletters.
Bylined articles, opinion pieces, letters to the editor and books are excellent vehicles to reinforce your credibility and leverage your visibility. Research and target those publications which would be most interested in learning the lessons from your trial, but realize that in most instances the lead time between pitching an article idea and seeing it in print can be three months or longer. Once published, or if you are extensively quoted as an expert in an article, have it reprinted (always secure reprint permission) and sent to the names on your database mailing list. Ditto for speeches you have given.
Networking is another way to increase your visibility. This suggests that you may wish to join nonprofit, community, political and legal organizations, especially those that may have indirectly benefited from the issues raised at trial. Or, if appropriate, establish your own charitable or advocacy group. The key to success is “proactivity,” including attendance at meetings and functions, and board of directors and committee involvement that will keep you in the public eye. Indirectly, such organizations may also open public-speaking and publishing doors on your behalf.
Post-litigation public relations takes time, patience and persistence. Although it does not carry with it the glamour of media coverage focused around a high-profile trial, it does serve to build name recognition and awareness on a continual basis. If you find the process too tedious, consider retaining the services of a public-relations professional. Regardless, it is vital that you not lose the momentum generated by the trial to further your reputation and professional opportunities, including your next high-profile case.
Sharon Berman is principal of Los Angeles based Berbay Marketing & PR She can be reached at Berman@Berbay.com. Kathy Pinckert, J.D., is president of Communication Art Forms in Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.