When the attorneys at Thompson & Knight filed a lawsuit claiming authorities with Travis County and the City of Austin had failed to properly investigate thousands of sexual assault cases, the case received a lot of attention.
It was covered on TV, in the paper, and a range of social media and online publications.
Preparation was Vital
But before the filing and the interviews, Thompson & Knight called on us for advice on how to tell their clients’ story in the best way possible.
With former reporters on staff and years of experience working with our clients on literally thousands of cases, we can often anticipate the questions the media will ask. So, as a first step, we sat down with attorney Jennifer Ecklund and talked about the kinds of questions she was likely to hear from the media. We did mock interviews to see which answers worked best. When it came time to speak to reporters, Jennifer and the other attorneys had a clear, strong, and consistent response.
Informing the Media
News conferences don’t always make sense, but in this case, bringing everyone together in one place to provide clear and concise information did. Prior to that, we developed a contact list of local reporters and distributed an alert letting them know when and where the news conference would be taking place. For those attending, we prepared and distributed a copy of the lawsuit, a news release, and background materials with information on the number of sexual assaults reported in Travis County compared to the low number of actual prosecutions. In order to reach other regional and national media, we developed a customized list of direct contacts to receive the news release and also posted the release on a commercial distribution service.
Coverage, Coverage, Coverage
The press conference was streamed on Facebook Live by multiple media outlets, which included all local TV outlets as well as the Austin American-Statesman. In the hours and days after the event, the news was picked up and magnified by several outlets, not only across Texas but also the rest of the country. The attorneys and plaintiffs participated in multiple telephone interviews. Social media was an important part of the plan, as we issued a series of posts through various channels based on the resulting news coverage.
And this is significant. Like throwing a rock in a pond, the waves created by the lawsuit and the resulting coverage continue to expand, reverberating across the Austin political community. Follow-up media reports, both locally and nationally, continue to focus on and bring attention to the systemic failure to pursue sexual assault claims. That attention is a direct result of how the story and the case were rolled out. In the right way, in front of the right people.
Announcing this litigation could simply have been limited to issuing a news release and waiting for a reaction. Instead, the firm decided to be proactive and to maximize the possible news exposure for the case, leading us to initiate media training, the news conference and comprehensive outreach to the media and public. With each of these components working in concert, we were able to achieve a much greater impact for our client. Not only did we reach a larger audience, but we were able to present information about the lawsuit in the proper context so that it was better understood, accurately reported, and positioned to garner public awareness and support.