The Basics of Litigation PR

Talking about court cases has been one of the essential parts of being a journalist as well as being a great way to tell stories. However, these days, reporting has started to happen on a 24-hour basis. With everyone being able to share information and tell stories publicly thanks to social media, there has been an increase in public scrutiny both on companies as well as individuals.

When it comes to managing the reputation of a client during the litigation process – whether that client is an individual or a company – it’s up to litigation PR to deal with everything. Litigation PR is a specialist section of legal PR.

This is the segment of public relations that deals with everything before any claim has been issued, and before anything even reaches the court, as well as dealing with any events throughout the timeline of the court processes. Litigation PR also deals with the public relations aspects of a client when the case is finally closed.

Whenever a company or an individual is involved in a legal dispute, they should carefully think about how that particular case is going to be impacting their reputation and their public image because, in the end, it certainly will.

What does Litigation PR do?

The job of the litigation PR experts and the client should first and foremost be to think about what will the overall goal be when they engage with litigation PR in the first place. It could be to maintain the client’s silence or it could be to rebut the stance of the opponent. Perhaps, it’s to raise awareness with the public on the issue that the client is dealing with. It could also get the opponent to settle the claim before it even gets to the court.

Whatever the goal may be, the client and the litigation PR professionals should have a strategy. This strategy should anticipate how and when the client could be attacked from the opponent, how to respond to any attacks as well as possible responses to any false allegations that the opponent may end up making.

The better the plan and the strategy are, the better the outcome is going to be for the client, both in terms of the public perception and the stories with the media outlets. The strategy should also outline how the client and the opponent will stand before the court of public opinion. No matter what ends up happening in the court of law, the court of public opinion is going to have a much bigger effect on the future of the client’s business and public image.

However, in the end, the litigation PR strategy is only going to be as good as the legal case which underlies it. If the client has a weak case in the court of law, having an aggressive PR strategy is not going to make up for the pitfalls in the court. While litigation PR can be used to put pressure on the other side, it’s still up to the lawyers and the judge for what happens at the end of the case.

Legal PR and Journalists

Oftentimes, working in legal PR and then sending pitches and stories to journalists is a bit like trying to find the light switch in pitch-black darkness. Sending out emails and documents to key publications as a way to get the partners published often means sending hundreds of emails and not getting a single response. Furthermore, distributing press releases oftentimes leads to little traction.

Unfortunately, with a mountain of emails and stories to get through, journalists and news outlets don’t really have the time to give any detailed feedback on the reasons why each email didn’t make the cut. This often leads to legal PR professionals wondering what exactly do legal journalists want to see and read about.

Quality of the Story

The first thing that any journalist wants to see is that the story can move the audience when they read it. They often look for fast, insightful, and quotable comments and quotes that can move the story along and tell the public about the likely impact of even the wider significance of an event or a case.

The story should get to the point quickly, and also either be interesting or have an original perspective. It should have something that will jump off the page, not talk about all the unnecessary details of legal jargon and opinions.

Timeliness

Everyone already knows that journalism is an old trade. The best way to stand out in the sea of stories and big headlines is to provide the journalist with some advanced knowledge. For example, if the legal PRs know something about judgment, that could potentially attract a lot of interest with the public, journalists will appreciate a heads up on the matter, and those legal PRs are more likely to get quoted or have their story make the cut.

Know the Audience

Legal PR professionals should first and foremost be familiar with the publications that they want to pitch their stories to along with their audiences. They should also know the deadlines and best times to reach out with a story. A publication that doesn’t deal with law and litigation won’t even open an email that deals with such subjects, because the journalist isn’t looking for those types of stories.

Additionally, when the legal PRs are pitching a story via email, they need to put an interesting top line and tell the journalist what it’s about in the subject line. This way, when the journalist receives the story, they’ll have an idea of what’s happening before they even open the email, and can get to the most interesting points of the piece first.

Avoid Meaningless Phrases

It’s always best to use plain English which can simply and clearly convey the story that’s being presented. Because when a journalist receives a press release that contains a lot of legal jargon, they then have to search for answers for the meaning of those phrases. They lose precious time which they could have spent actually writing the story, especially in the current news cycle that moves at the speed of lightning.