Litigation Public Relations: Understanding Legal Press Conferences
Before we dive into how to execute a successful press conference, it’s important to address what a press conference is and when you should have one.
A press conference is an opportunity for your attorneys and potentially others you designate – your client, a prominent individual involved in the case, or others impacted by the issue – to speak to the media at your chosen place and time, tell your story and allow the media to ask questions in real time.
Deciding on whether you hold a press conference versus using another public relations tactic is not an exact science, but one simple rule of thumb is to use press conferences when announcing a major news story. Examples include a noteworthy lawsuit filing, a significant verdict/settlement, an important case milestone, bringing attention to a larger issue, etc. If you overuse press conferences, the media will be less likely to show up when you do have major news. It’s also worth noting that press conferences require a considerable amount of time and resources to plan, so you want to reserve them for only the most important announcements.
Preparing for Your Law Firm Press Conference
Once you’ve decided that your news warrants holding a press conference, now you have to plan and execute it. Below is a checklist for your law firm press conference to ensure it runs smoothly and effectively.
Before the Press Conference
- Select a date and time. In general, it’s best to avoid Mondays and Fridays or close to a holiday to get the most eyeballs on your news. Mid-morning, around 10 or 11 a.m., is ideal to be included in afternoon or evening TV news segments. This timing also prevents media from having to compete with rush hour traffic to get to your press conference.
- Secure a venue. Hotel banquet/conference rooms can be a great venue as they are set up to hold a lot of people and can coordinate all your audio/visual needs. As an alternative, you can select a site that has visual interest or relates to your story –courthouse steps, where an incident occurred, etc. Keep in mind, you will likely need permission or a permit to speak there, and the location may not be the best option in terms of background noise (traffic, passersby).
- Distribute a media alert. Identify the media contacts you would like to invite and craft your media alert. The media alert should address the who, what, where, when and why, and include a contact name and number for RSVPs or questions. Send out the alert at least 24 – 48 hours in advance of your press conference. Be sure to emphasize what new information will be shared at the press conference – this should encourage media attendance.
- Prepare your press kit. Separately from the distribution of a media alert announcing the press conference, you need to prepare a press release that is distributed post-conference. Print copies for those attending with attorney bios and other supporting materials, such as your complaint, etc. Include links to any videos or audio that media can access after the press conference. And always bring extra copies for reporters who attend but didn’t RSVP.
Set-up and Logistics
- Confirm what equipment you’ll need. Depending on your location, you may need to rent a microphone, table, podium, backdrop, seating, etc. If you’re using a hotel, they can provide these items for a fee or as part of your contract for renting the room.
- Consider hiring a professional photographer/videographer. Capturing photos and videos of the press conference will be helpful to send to media as b-roll if they weren’t able to attend. You can also use the content to post on your website and social media.
- Determine the order of speakers and timing. Having a schedule keeps the day of organized and avoids confusion. Keep the number of speakers to a minimum so media can capture comments from everyone. For example, consider limiting the spokespeople to no more than four people. Allot time for any media questions. Identify one person who will act as moderator to open the press conference, introduce the speakers and issues, turn it over for a Q&A and conclude the event.
- Conduct media training. All media spokespeople should have media training to ensure they are comfortable and understand what to expect. It’s also best to limit questions to the attorneys, versus clients who may not be as media savvy.
Day of the Press Conference
- Get there early. Getting there early is critical. Test the audio/visual equipment, ensure the room is set up to your liking, set up the podium or table where spokespeople will be sitting, etc. Once media starts arriving, it gets hectic, so giving yourself extra time ensures a seamless day.
- Greet the press. Have media sign in with all contact information, give each a press kit and offer refreshments. Some may have cameras to set up, so you should be prepared to direct them to the appropriate location and help with any logistics.
- Start the press conference. The moderator should make introductions, then have each speaker make their statement, followed by media questions. If there are audio or visuals, the moderator or attorney can explain what the attendees will be hearing or watching.
- Wrap up. Thank the press for attending and encourage them to stay for informal conversations with the attorneys, if appropriate. Any clients that participated, and don’t want to make additional comments or be filmed further, should be escorted out quickly to avoid any pressure from the media.
- Distribute your press release. For those media that didn’t attend, this is the time they should get access to the information you presented at the press conference.
- Follow up with media. Send a personalized email to attendees thanking them again for coming and take this opportunity to ask if/when a story will run (if it wasn’t confirmed at the press conference.) For anyone that couldn’t be there in person, follow up to see if they have questions or need additional information. Include any videos or photos from the press conference that they wouldn’t have been able to capture.
Consider Working with Legal Press Conference Experts
Coordinating a press conference can be an undertaking. If you don’t have someone in-house at your law firm who is experienced with what it takes to execute a successful press conference, it may be wise to engage the services of a public relations agency. PR experts can manage logistics, develop messaging that aligns with your objectives, leverage their media contacts, coach your speakers and more. This allows you to focus on your case and leaves the rest to the experts.
Partner with a Trusted Los Angeles Marketing and PR Firm
Berbay Marketing & Public Relations has nearly three decades of experience providing law, real estate and financial firms with marketing and public relations services that propel your business forward. Berbay’s team has demonstrated success facilitating press conferences, securing media placements, achieving nominations and rankings, revitalizing websites, enhancing your social media presence, obtaining speaking engagements and more.