August 1, 2014 by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:00:00 am
What do reporters understand least about lawyers?
Lawyers often ignore deadlines that aren’t dictated by a court, which can infuriate reporters who make their living by meeting countless deadlines on a daily basis. That can create a dynamic where a deadline-efficient reporter becomes frustrated or upset with a lawyer when they do not get a reply in time to meet their deadline. Although work on a last-minute filing may preclude you from taking a call from your own mother, reporters still will be perplexed by why you can’t take their call. That is why it is so important to make sure and respond to a reporter’s request, even if it is to tell them that you’re too busy to comment. Making this small gesture has preserved many reporter/lawyer relationships that could have turned sour in the absence of a response.
What is the top thing you find that lawyers don’t understand about reporters?
With today’s Internet deadlines, reporters literally don’t have an idle minute. If a reporter takes the time to sit down with you to discuss a case, that means they want to cut to the chase quickly with as few extraneous details as possible. Reporters are no longer willing to spend an entire afternoon interacting with a lawyer-source for a story. That’s why you should be able to provide the most important facts and state your position within the first few minutes of an interview. If it is clear that the reporter has time, then that is when it’s appropriate to include the related details.
What has been the biggest attitude shift you’ve seen by law firms in their approach to media relations during the past decade?
The era of “no comment” for law firms is largely a thing of the past. When The American Lawyer magazine began publishing its annual listing of law firm revenue, plenty of firms opted not to participate only to later discover that an anonymous firm member had surreptitiously turned over the firm’s financial numbers, or, worse, delivered incorrect information. That spurred many firms to opt in during the years that followed, which improved the reporting and provided a better picture of the firms overall. The cooperation between law firms and the media that began with AmLaw’s firm finance list has grown exponentially ever since, and now firms have entire marketing teams devoted to interacting with the media.
What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to writing, grammar and punctuation?
Writing that buries the most important points deep within the overall text is a common mistake, even for lawyers who are trained to frame their issue initially before getting into the facts. Much like the interview process, writing should grab readers quickly and include the details later. In terms of grammar, the useless and practically meaningless word “moreover” is on my Top 10 Don’t Do list. “Moreover” is defined as “in addition to what has been said.” Based on that definition, “moreover” could be used to begin every sentence after the opening line in any document ever written, which is ridiculous. Also, text messaging and social media have led many people who know better to butcher the rules of punctuation in their emails, letters to clients and other communications. If it’s worth writing down, then it’s worth punctuating correctly. We all make mistakes, but I’ve always remembered this solemn warning from my college writing professor: “People judge you by what you write, fair or not, and they never lose that first impression no matter what you do afterward.”
Can you recall one or two examples of working with Androvett clients that you found the most rewarding, fulfilling or just fun?
The most fulfilling part of my job comes when I can help a lawyer or law firm overturn negative perceptions about their case or their client. I’ve found that the “common knowledge” often isn’t common or knowledge, but rather the result of a spin from the opposing party that simply hasn’t been addressed effectively. In terms of rewarding efforts, I have to say that working with the good people at Dublin Bottling Works tops the list. They eventually lost an ugly partnership dispute with Dr Pepper Snapple, but we helped raise awareness of the legal battle and promoted Dublin Bottling Works’ plans to continue its operations, which allowed us to play a small part in successfully re-launching the company as a non-Dr Pepper entity. I hope more and more people discover that Dublin is still bottling the world’s best sodas today.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I may well have become a school teacher but for a third-grader I was monitoring as part of an elementary education class in college. I had a date to a basketball game that was scheduled to start shortly after the class, so I wore a new shirt. Unfortunately, the student apparently thought the shirt would benefit from a swipe of orange watercolor paint. I wore the now-ruined shirt to pick up my date, and noticed one of her roommates reviewing the same textbook from a journalism course I’d completed the previous semester. I commented that the professor was tough, and she agreed, telling me “He says he’s only had one student who understood journalism in the 30 years he’s taught this class.” Trying to make a joke, I told her that it was probably me. The roommate, who I hadn’t met before, replied: “I doubt it. He said it was some guy named Bruce Vincent.” I switched my major to journalism the next semester.
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