Does Your Firm Need to Generate Press Releases….Yes, Yes it Does!
Press releases are a great way to gain publicity and visibility for a law firm, and to drive targeted traffic to the firm’s web properties. A well-crafted press release can attract the attention of widely read media outlets, which puts your firm in the news, helps brand it as a major authority in the areas of law that are practiced there, and reaches legal consumers that could turn into clients. In some cases, press releases can even go viral and lead to other media opportunities, such as a local radio interview.
Press releases are different from blog post articles, area of practice (AOP) pages, attorney profiles, and other forms of online content. A press release is a news story that should be written in the third person with the goal of providing unique and compelling information that targeted readers would find interesting and useful. The primary purpose of a press release is not to sell your firm’s legal services (although that could be one of the results of the story going public), but rather to inform the reader about something important that you or your firm have some involvement in.
Although a press release can be a strong addition to your content marketing strategy, this will not just happen by chance. Media organizations are inundated with countless news stories every day, and if you want your story to gain traction, it needs to stand out from the others. Fortunately, it is not terribly difficult to create a press release that will get your firm noticed, but it does involve incorporating some essential elements.
Here are some important guidelines for writing and publishing a winning press release:
Select a Newsworthy Topic
Since the primary purpose of a press release is to announce something or convey an important piece of information about you or your firm, you need to make sure that your story is newsworthy. Your topic should be unique, timely, and tell readers something relevant and interesting that they could not find out in a hundred other places.
Here are some examples of newsworthy topics that you could write about:
- Attorney awards and recognitions.
- A new partner joining the firm.
- The opening of a new office.
- An important case that your firm just won.
- Groundbreaking legislation that your firm was a part of shaping.
- A special event that you or your firm is sponsoring.
- Your firm’s participation in a charitable event.
- A new legal service that you are offering.
- The release of a book or white paper.
- Discussion about the legal implications of timely events (COVID-19 is a great example).
- Useful tips and insights for legal consumers.
A good way to know whether or not you are choosing a newsworthy topic is to ask yourself this question, “why would anyone outside our office care about the topic we want to use?” If you cannot come up with a good answer to this question, then put that topic on the shelf.
Write an Attention Grabbing Headline
Create a headline that is short, to the point, and draws readers in. A good headline should have no more than 15 words in it, around 10 is even better. Here are a few examples:
- Top Atlanta Personal Injury Firm marks 40-Year Anniversary
- Leading New York Firm wins Major Lawsuit against Auto Manufacturer
- Philadelphia Injury Attorney Shares Unique Insights into the Auto Accident Claims Process
Include just the facts in your headline – no exaggerations, hyperbole, or opinions. Give the reader the “who”, “what”, “how”, “when”, or “why” of the story, and if possible, look for a unique angle or spin that will make readers want to click on your news article. You should also try to optimize the headline for a keyword phrase that you would like to rank for in the search engines (more on search engine optimization later).
Use the Proper News Story Structure
As we have talked about already, a press release is a news story; and as such, you need to make sure that it is structured properly and written in the right style and tone. The press release should be written objectively and using a journalistic style. Include the dateline and city/state prior to the body of the article, and include the name of the attorney or law firm that the story is about in the first paragraph.
In the body of the press release, include all relevant facts about whatever you are announcing, and also include quotes from one or more of the attorneys or other stakeholders who are involved in the story. Although the story itself should be strictly informational, including quotations gives you the opportunity to sell yourself and your firm a little bit.
For example, if your firm just won a major lawsuit, whoever is being quoted could talk about the importance of this win, give credit to the other attorneys and staff who worked on the case, talk about how the win helped your client, and discuss some of the keys to your firm’s ongoing success. This is not directly selling your firm, but it does give readers some insight into how you approach cases and emphasizes your successful track record.
After the body of the press release, there should be a few more sections:
- About: A paragraph talking about the attorney or firm, your services, recognitions and awards, how long you have been practicing, and any other relevant information you want to include. The same “About” section can be used in all of your press releases.
- Call to Action: One sentence that directs readers to the firm’s website to learn more details.
- Contact Information: The contact information of the firm, including phone number, email address, and social media profiles (if you have them).
Make your Press Release Readable and Concise
Because of the sheer volume of information that is available online, most internet consumers scan news stories looking for information that is useful to them rather than reading every word. Journalists are the same way when they consider whether to run with a news story that lands in their inbox.
Make sure your press release is easy to read. Limit your paragraphs to three sentences or less and use subheadings and bullet points frequently to separate the text. Be careful not to make your news article too long; a good rule of thumb is to keep it to 1000 words or less, unless it takes more than that to adequately cover the topic without any added “filler.”
Lastly, select an image to complement your press release. This could be a picture of the building where an event is being held, a picture of a courthouse if you just won a big court case, a picture of the book cover if you are releasing a new book, or the picture of an attorney if you are announcing the addition of a new partner for your firm. If in doubt, you can always use your firm’s logo for the image.
Optimize the Press Release for Search Engines
A press release is a strong branding tool, but it can also play a role in your SEO strategy. This can be done through backlinks from authority news websites to your own website (which helps build search engine rankings) or through your press release article showing up for popular keyword searches.
Identify two or three keyword phrases that you would like to rank for in order of importance. Try to work the most important one into your headline and into the article three or four more times. Then work the other keyword phrases into the article a couple times as well.
Do NOT “keyword stuff” or force a keyword into a sentence awkwardly if it does not naturally flow with the text. The search engine algorithms no longer reward this strategy, and more importantly, it will make your article look unprofessional and unappealing. Focus on quality content first, and work your keyword phrases in only where you can find an appropriate place for them.
Send your Story to the Right News Outlets
Be sure to send your story out to the news publications that are most relevant to the region the news story is covering, and outlets that are most likely to publish the story. For example, if the story has something to do with a charitable event that you are participating in within your city, there is no reason to distribute the release nationally. On the other hand, if you were part of a major class action lawsuit with class members in all 50 states, then a national release might be appropriate.
You can send out the press release yourself by compiling a list of news publications you would like to see it in and obtaining the email addresses of reporters at each outlet. But this is extremely time-consuming, and most firms opt to use a distribution service that can guarantee publication in at least some of the outlets that they are targeting. There are numerous distribution services out there, and their prices can range from $100 on the low-end up to $1,000 or more on the high-end depending on the length of your article and how many (and which) outlets you are sending it to.
Set Realistic Expectations
One very important thing that everyone needs to realize about press releases is that they are not a “one off” strategy, and you should not expect every news story to be a home run.
Will your first press release result in a highly lucrative case for your firm or a radio interview?
It could happen and it has happened. But there is also a chance that the first news story you send out will not receive a strong response. Or maybe it will receive a decent response in which you get some good exposure, but it does not result in immediate business.
The point is that you never know what will come of each story you send out. A successful effort will include some singles and doubles, some strikeouts, an occasional home run, and even a grand slam every now and then. This is a long term strategy, and with consistency over time, your efforts will pay off and you will see a good return on your investment.
Do Not Overthink It or Overdo It
The last point we want to leave you with is not to overthink this or overdo it. Creating a press release that will get your firm noticed is not as complicated as it may seem. It is simply a matter of writing a good news story and sending it out to the right places. For some topics, 300 to 400 words is all that is needed to craft your story and have it ready for publication.
By “overdoing it”, we are referring to sending out too many press releases in too short a period of time. For example, if you are spamming the news wires with a new press release every week, you are far less likely to get any reporter to take your story seriously. This will not do your reputation any good, and it will produce diminishing returns on your SEO efforts as well.
Some firms produce a monthly press release, and this could work as long as you have a newsworthy topic every month. But we would definitely not recommend doing it any more often than monthly. We typically advise our clients to shoot for a press release every three months or so as an optimal branding and SEO strategy.
If you feel like writing a press release yourself or having someone in your office do it seems overwhelming and beyond your capacity, no worries. As with distribution, you can always have a professional do the writing for you. And as always, if there is anything we can help you with regarding press releases or anything else related to digital marketing, feel free to get in touch with us whenever it is convenient.
About Sundown Legal Marketing
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