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People are always talking about social and new media for law firms… but never one to go with the trend, today we want to talk about traditional media for lawyers and law firms.  Legal opinion-setter, Brian John Spencer, explains his views.

Being a late chronotype, mornings are never easy. Nonetheless, as I rose early on the morning of June 3 2013 I did the usual and switched onto Radio 4. And at 14 minutes past the ungodly hour of 6am the dulcet and lawyerly tones of Gary Miller came wafting across the airwaves; mixing it up of course with the fumes from my intermittent quaffing of coffee.

But back to Gary Miller – who is he? Mr Miller is an international litigator and insolvency specialist with Mishcon de Reya. A law firm we have come to grow found of at Elephant Creative – see here and here.

And why should we care that Gary of Mishcon de Reya was on the radio? Well it wasn’t so much the content of what he said, which was hugely informative and authoritative (of course), but rather the significance and implication of his very being on BBC Radio 4 – a national institution.

Just as millions across the UK sink cup after cup of tea and unquantifiable units of bitter bean juice every morning, so millions switch on and listen to Sarah Montague and her colleagues present the latest news and opinion on Radio 4. It’s part of the national routine.

And there’s this to consider: we keep getting told that digital is slowly bludgeoned the TV, print and radio stars to death; that the old media are dying if not dead. How not true. If you think that you’d rightly deserve the title of being a swivel-eyed loon. The radio airwaves are plump and full of life.

In fact, if anything, radio remains probably thee most authoritative of all the media old and new. The day that the Archers ceases broadcast is the day Britain launches its nuclear cache from beneath the waves. Radio really is that big: bigger than Twitter, bigger than Facebook and probably bigger than the TV and newspapers.

After the surprise of the Mishcon de Reya feature on Radio 4 we got another surprise only a few days later. On Monday June 10 a familiar face appeared on Channel 4 news.

This time it was Tim Summers (see his interview with us here) of Temple Bright, the plain speaking and unashamedly ambitious tech law firm, and another real home favourite of ours at Elephant Creative. And just so you know: Tim was on the national television broadcaster to discuss the wildly topical revelation of the US-government sanctioned PRISM surveillance programme. See Tim’s feature on Channel 4 in full here.

So again: why does this matter? Because like Mishcon de Reya’s Gary Miller, Tim Summers of Temple Bright has managed to put himself, both as an individual and as an ambassador for his firm, front of stage on an authoritative platform and in front a broad and varied national audience.

So two questions: what does this mean for Mishcon de Reya and Temple Bright? And then: what can other lawyers, law firms and business learn from their great foraging?

Firstly, what both these media appearances have done is this: they’ve given both the firm and the lawyer concerned massive exposure. By gaining the approval of two national gatekeepers – BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4 – both Mishcon and Temple Bright have shown themselves to be experts and authorities in their specific subject matter. It’s also massively good on reputational terms – people will talk.

On to the second question: it obviously helped that Gary and Tim have the luxury of well connected and enterprising PR firms. But whether you’re a small or large law firm with a small or large PR budget, you can get onto the traditional media. And by doing so, you too can build exposure and demonstrate expertise and grow your reputation.

Harper Reed, the Chief Technology Officer for Obama 2012 (discussed here on Defero Law) did the same for the launch of the Obama social media campaign launch. Using the traditional media platform of the Wall Street Journal, Harper Reed and his team were able to give their efforts a one-off boost through a feature on the nationally read and highly regarded financial newspaper.

But it doesn’t have to be so difficult or exclusive – it doesn’t necessarily have to be full on national broadcasters. I’ll explain.

The exceptionally media savvy international libel lawyer and fellow Belfast resident, Paul Tweed uses the traditional media as well as new media as a central driver for his work and profile.

For example, here he appeared on regional broadcaster UTV to discuss the Leveson Inquiry. Here Paul Tweed was featured in the Belfast Telegraph discussing the new libel law. Here Paul appeared on the London panel discussion on censorship, Caught in the web: How free are we online? held in London, June 11 2013. Paul Tweed also writes regularly for the Huffington Post (see here) on the subject he knows and is known best for, libel law. What better way to boost your profile and demonstrate your expertise on a specific subject matter than by engaging the traditional media on multiple fronts, and then combining that with your branding drive on the various new media fronts?

Then there’s me: I’ve taken the opportunity to feature on the Huff Post Live based in America, discussing youth employment and I’ve also featured on the local broadcaster UTV discussing social media law. Both were great for building exposure and driving attention to myself; and I still use the screen grab from my Huff Post Live feature on my Twitter avatar at @brianjohnspencr. As does Tim Summers for that matter… and many of the rest of the Elephant Creative herd, like Helen Hammond herself, recently featured in the IoD Director magazine, talking about flexible working and new business models.

So final question: how do you get on BBC Radio 4, Channel 4 or feature in the local broadcaster, a panel discussion, get quoted in a local or national newspaper or get interviewed by a blog ?

Some, perhaps, like Mishcon and Temple Bright, can afford experts (rather like Elephant Creative) to do it for them… others have to at least start the ball rolling on their own.  However, the methods boil down to the same.  Networking and building relationships, online and offline.  Offline you work hard and do the bread and butter and demonstrate your ability through word of mouth and good networking. Online you kind of do the same, using the platforms that work for you… of which, the blog should be your home and your central driving voice. As for other voices, because we have many today: use Twitter, Facebook, Google plus, Instagram and other social media to give further expression to your specialism and interests and to network.

All of this chimes mightily and echoes with what we discussed in an earlier post entitled, ‘Cross-platform digital consistency is vital’ (Felix Salmon recently wrote something similar on his Reuters blog here). Except on this occasion we’ve taken things further and explored how law firms can go beyond the new and online media and how law firms can in fact get onto the traditional media platforms like radio, television and news papers.  However, the first and most important thing is to work out what you want to achieve.  Once you’ve established that, understanding the pathway you’re going to take is really the easier part.