More and more law firms are using web sites. Where are these sites falling short? What about news rooms?
There is another audience besides clients and prospective clients. That audience is the media. Law firm web sites need to direct more focus on the media and the recognize the benefit of effective public relations. Law firm web sites should incorporate first-rate online press rooms.
The first wave of law firm web sites was often the brainchild of the marketing department or the attorneys. As a result reporters were often forgotten in the rush to publish. However, for most firms, the news media is a clear and well-defined audience. What type of information should we provide that is key to this audience?
Too many web sites bury any contact information, much less specifics on whom to call for an “on the record” statement. Many sites, if they include any contact information, will only include an address, phone and fax – no names.
If you want to make friends with the media, make it easy for them to call (or e-mail) you. Whether it is a link from the home page, or an easily-found link in the “about us” or “news” sections of your web site – give the media basic information about branch offices – along with names and phone numbers. Don’t forget the area code.
If you are concerned about e-mail overload, set up a special e-mail address for media inquiries (but make sure that it is checked more than once a day). If your web administrator persuades you to use “form mail” (instead of an e-mail link) minimize the “required” fields and tell the reporter, up front, that he/she will receive a copy of the correspondence upon “send.” (These are two functional requirements that you should insist upon.)
Archived News Releases
This seems like so much common sense that I don’t understand why many have foregone this courtesy. Not only is it a boon for reporters (90% say they use the web for research) or others who are researching your firm, industry, or a event of the day, but it also allows you to let the world know what your organization has said about any given topic. Think of it as self-publishing.
Search engines may or may not be a good idea for archives. I suggest taking a little time (so that reporters don’t have to) and organizing news releases in annual archives as well as subjective ones. Some releases will fall into more than one subject category. Use hyperlinks and the web.
Your web site allows you to have a 24×7 presence for the media, which is especially crucial for firms with a global presence. Think about common requests that could easily be delivered via the web:
If you do set up a special section for the media, as a general rule, don’t require registration or “credentialing.” There are exceptions to this rule, but they are in the distinct minority for most firms.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC