In this, the second in a series of three posts for lawyers about choosing a legal PR agency, I'm talking about chemistry, and why it's so important.
PR is all about communications - with the media, with clients, with referrers, with staff, with partners. For maximum effectiveness, the lines of communications need to be clear. Would you trust your deepest, darkest secrets to somebody you didn't like, or worse didn't trust? Of course not and the same goes with PR.
Like it or not, to do the best job, your PR team need to know your secrets. You'll need to let the cat out of the bag and drag the skeleton out of the closet if you truly want the most out of the relationship.
Why? Because without knowing your firm's bad bits, it's difficult to promote their good bits. If you are making redundancies or considering a law firm merger - you must tell your PR immediately. If a disgruntled employee leaks the news to a journalist and we don't know about it, we're immediately on the back foot. We'll have to rush about putting together a reactive statement, the journalist will probably print something in the meantime and the rumour mill will go wild in the absence of facts.
Alternatively, you can tell us about your plans in advance (and in confidence, of course). That way, we can create a pro-active statement for release when you're ready. We can advise you on when this announcement should be made, and we can ensure that all press enquiries come through us. That way everybody is calm, the journalists get their story (with facts) and the wind is removed from your disgruntled employee's sails. Whilst not everybody will be happy, usually impossible in a redundancy or merger situation, the matter will have been handled professionally and in an ordered manner.
So; back to chemistry. Here are a few suggestions for ensuring great chemistry and a long term relationship with your legal PR team:
1. Mutual respect and trust is fundamental to a good working relationship. Meet the proposed team for coffee on at least one occasion before engaging. Be decisive and honest with yourself about whether you can work closely with them
2. If you are choosing an agency via a pitch process, check that the pitch team is also the team you'll be working with
3. Ensure that a senior member of the team will be available for day to day contact. Many agencies will use junior level staff to draft copy but strategic direction should come from above
4. Be honest at all times - communications is a two way street
5. Be willing to have difficult discussions. It's far better to be grilled by your PR in the first instance than by a journalist who has managed to get past your gatekeeper. (PRs will know exactly what questions a journalist wants to know the answers to and that's why they ask them - they're not being aggressive or nosey)
6. Take our advice - we know what we're talking about (although ensure that you have followed our advice on expertise in our 1st post on choosing a legal PR agency )
7. Stick to your side of the bargain. Be available when necessary, accept that PR is important and should be high up on your priorities and expect to be disturbed at inconvenient times - the news agenda waits for nobody.
By Victoria Moffatt
For more information about the legal PR services that LexRex can offer, please take a look at our website.
Alternatively, to arrange a friendly chat with Victoria, please contact us at email@example.com or via Twitter @vicmoffatt or @lexrexcomms