Litigation Support Background

Media strategist picks up where law schools fall short

by John Breslin | Apr. 20, 2018, 11:31am

Originally printed in the St. Louis Record:

ST. LOUIS - Law school teaches future attorneys many things about the law, but they don't teach how to market their firm or interact with the media.

Jim Grandone, a media strategist based in Edwardsville, Illinois, has fronted the first of what will be a series of videos aimed at educating lawyers on how to deal with the media and develop their businesses.

Law Firm Public Relations

I have, since 2006, worked closely with the principals/managing partners of a variety of law firms from throughout the U.S. Much of the specific information about the work and details are privileged, however, I am able to characterize what I did in my role working with the attorneys on the team.

What should be emphasized is that every case is a story and most of those stories, while privileged, can be reworked into examples for public consumption without breaking confidentiality.

Most of the lawyers I know love to tell stories until the news media is around.  Then they are suddenly struck dumb.  One attorney described it well when he told  me that 50 percent of the time lawyers worry about whether the news media will write about them and the other 50 percent of the time is spent worrying about what they will write.

It does not have to be that way.  If you understand how the media works and develop professional relationships with them, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.  I am not advovating having drinks with an investigative reporter, rather know that they want a story and you want positive news about you and your firm. 

A public relations firm can save you a lot of time developing those relationships because, if they are any good, those relationships already exist.  Public Relations professionals know the media.  You know the law.  Between the two a good story that satisfies everyone’s needs can be created.

Are you involved in a high profile case?  When reporters ask questions do you utter “no comment’ out of habit?  If you have just filed papers with the court, unless prohibited, you may as well have handed them to the reporters.  Think.  What is it in those documents can you give a reporter that will satisfy his/her need for a story and your need to maintain confidentiality while getting publicity?  The reporters are going to read the documents anyway or use FOIA to do so.  Why not give them something they can use?

Grandone Public Relations and Strategic Counsel can help you think the media strategy through to benefit you, your client and satisfy the news media.  Let us review your current situation and we will provide you with a step-by-step plan of attack to get your and your client’s message across. 

Is your audience general or specific.  In most cases, it is general if a jury trial is likely.  If no jury trial, then your audience can be determined by the parties to the case and the judge, all of whom likely read the newspaper or watch or listen to the news.  You can reach either audience through a well thought out public relations plan.

Let Grandone Public Relations help you help your client and your law firm by putting you in the best light possible.

The Commercial Airline Disaster In Florida's Everglades

During my four years (1996-2000) handling media relations for the company accused of downing ValuJet flight 592  in the Everglades.  We took great care to consider the feelings of the families of the 111 souls lost aboard the aircraft that clear June day in 1996.

We also, had the responsibility to protect our client, who was accused of loading oxygen generators onto the aircraft just before the disaster.  We had to defend the company, its parent company, the shareholders, insurance carriers and the employees against the FAA, various other federal, state and local agencies and their attorneys in the courtroom, as well as the court of public opinion.

In addition we had to protect them from charges brought by the EPA, Miami-Dade emergency services and innumerable others who sought money from the tragedy. It was a dangerous situation, even for those who sat in offices instead of wading through the sawgrass at the scene.

During the course of that work, we provided our attorneys, as well as their client with world-class media training, developed and rehearsed answers to anticipated reporters’ hostile questioning, and prepared them for news interviews that we had arranged in advance.  We found it much more effective to have attorneys trained in how to address the media, rather than employing the cliché “No comment.” In fact, we prohibited our clients from uttering those words; training them instead to state key points in their favor that already were in the public record.  An ideal situation is a client, preferably a CEO, trained to answer question rather than use a lawyer spokesperson as a wall.  Of course in this situation, with so much at stake and so many lawsuits, choosing an attorney was the best choice.  Using realistic situations for practice and making the attorney understand the real pain of the families make the spokesperson more acceptable to all parties. 

Prior to any matter going to trial, we provided honest evaluations from the viewpoint of a non-litigant as to what arguments work and what do not.  We also created opportunities and anticipated risks for our clients, while becoming students of the political climate where the work was taking place.  We got out among the residents and talked with them about their thoughts and feelings about individuals and matters relating to a case.  Of course, we also constantly monitored the news coverage, which was ubiquitous.