Frances Gibb has stepped down as legal editor of The Times. Over lunch with Catherine Baksi, the legalhackette, she offers some wise words for legal PRs.
Keep pitches topical. Pitches to The Times need to be pegged to a news story. The same is true for all newspapers.
No case references. Lawyers love them, journalists (and everyone else) couldn't care less. 'A recent Court of Appeal ruling involving a dispute between....' is fine. Baldwin v Baldwin isn't.
Keep quotes short. Lawyers love words and lots of them. Journalists do not need chapter and verse, just a few short lines. They will always come back if more is needed. PRs should always help lawyers with a quote.
Make it quick. When a journalist asks for a line they usually need it there and then. If your preferred partner isn't available find someone else.
Throw the story forward. A quote shouldn't simply summarise a legal decision or a piece of legislation, but explain what impact it will have and what might happen next.
And always return a call. A no brainer and surprising it still happens.
And if all of that is too much of a struggle - well, get yourself a new PR.
Of law firm or chambers PRs, she says: “They can facilitate the writing of an urgent comment piece or quote when we are up against a deadline; but they can be unhelpful or even obstructive if they decide that helping is not in their interest.” Recognising the inherent tension between what journalists need and what PRs want for their law firm or chambers’ clients, she says: “They want their experts quoted or pieces by them printed, but they don’t always understand what makes a good quotation or commentary.