Effective business development means increasing your visibility among prospective clients. Whether that involves a visit to a head office, ensuring your newsletter goes into the right inboxes, or connecting through targeted advertising—applying the right business development approach can help you grow your practice.
Lawyers who are serious about business development actively seek out ways to increase their clientele while solidifying their reputation in a given practice area. Newsjacking—harnessing the momentum of current events to advance your agenda—is one tool that lawyers can use to get in front of the public and position themselves as knowledgeable professionals.
What is Newsjacking?
Newsjacking is a public relations tactic that involves inserting your agenda into a contemporary news story. Newsjacking can be a valuable source of earned media, as it involves publicly positioning yourself as a thought leader on the issue at hand. While mainstream media is still a strong target for newsjacking, professionals without a media relations team can still benefit by utilizing social media and owned channels.
Like most public relations tactics, the goal of newsjacking is to organically reach your audience. It is a bonus if the media is involved, as this type of exposure can “credential” you as a knowledgeable professional and confer trust, thereby building your reputation.
Newsjacking can be employed whenever a contemporary news story intersects with your business, although it works best when the newsjacker fits seamlessly into the story. For example, a real estate agent might comment a recent housing report and what it means for first-time home buyers. Or a human rights lawyer might weigh-in on a controversial new piece of legislation. Whatever the topic, the goal is for the newsjacker to provide some timely and relevant angle to the overarching story.
Considerations for Legal Professionals
As a legal professional, there are certain restrictions that can impact how you interact with the media. You will want to refrain from discussing clients or cases that you are involved with. It should also go without saying that you will also want to stay on the right side of libel and slander laws. Nonetheless, there are still many ways that legal professionals can reap the benefits of newsjacking. Here are three strategies to consider:
Newsjacking the Mainstream Media
Those with a media relations team—or those who are proactive self-promoters—can consider newsjacking the mainstream media (MSM). This form of newsjacking not only gets you in front of an audience, but also confers the benefits of appearing in the MSM, as these outlets have a credentialing factor that automatically builds trust. For this reason, MSM newsjacking is a good place for professionals looking to broadly enhance their reputation.
The relationship between newsjacker and media goes both ways. On the one hand, news outlets seek to extend the lifecycle of a popular story by producing fresh, relevant content. On the other hand, newsjacking takes advantage of the media’s need for content by offering a new perspective on the topic at hand. Media relations professionals understand this and cultivate their media contacts well in advance of a breaking news story so that the clients they represent are top of mind when a reporter needs a comment.
Your law firm might have a media relations team who can add you to their “book” of commenters. But even if you don’t have a media relations team, you can still reach out to the media. You will want to bring a reporter a compelling “pitch,” one which demonstrates an interesting angle that shows you can contribute something valuable to the story. Some angles that a legal professional might consider are:
- The Local Angle (Why that could/couldn’t happen here);
- The Trusted Expert  (Here’s an expert perspective); or
- Surprise Twist (What you didn’t know about this issue).
In addition to commenting on current events, legal professionals can easily share their perspective on legislation, major reports, or court cases with widespread impact.
Newsjacking on Owned Media
If engaging with the media isn’t in your wheelhouse, you can still benefit from newsjacking by sharing your perspective on your owned media channels—your blog, firm website, or newsletter are all places to share your perspective on the issue. Newsjacking on owned media is good for professionals who are looking for a timely way to engage with their existing audience or those already familiar with the issue.
As above, consider ways to bring a fresh perspective to the topic that demonstrates your knowledge of a particular issue. You can borrow from the media angles provided to center your article within the frame of a contemporary story.
The benefit of writing for an owned channel is that you can tailor the topic to your clientele without having to worry about appealing to a large audience, as you might have to do with an MSM outlet. This means you can delve deeper into a topic and explore issues with a professional lens. In fact, with owned media you can choose how closely you adhere to the original story—you can even just use to frame the issue you want to talk about. With an owned channel, you can use current events as a pretext to demonstrate your depth in a particular area.
React to a Current Event on Social Media
While MSM newsjacking focuses on appealing to a broad audience, and newsjacking on owned channels is the place to share your professional knowledge with a select clientele, you can also raise your profile by reacting to current events on social media.
Social media offers a place to highlight your practice in relation to a fast-moving news story. The goal here is to—quite literally—do a quick take, as the ephemeral nature of the medium lends itself to quick responses. Because social media can cast a wide net, newsjacking on social media is good for connecting with potential new clients and raising your profile in general. Social media works well for those who are willing to engage with pop culture, although less adventurous professionals can stick to the tried-and-true repertoire of business, government, and law.
Think broadly when newsjacking on social media, as you’ll need to react fast and think flexibly when finding your angle. But the opportunities abound if you know where to look. Did a celebrity couple just break-up? That’s a great opportunity for a divorce lawyer to talk about the benefits of a pre-nuptial agreement. What about when a major tech company lets go of half its workforce? Sounds like the right moment for an employment lawyer to comment on severance packages. Did a start-up business venture take a bad deal on that famous TV show? An intellectual property (IP) lawyer could use this opening to talk about the importance of trademarks and patents.
Whether you state the call to action (Contact me to learn more!) or leave your services as implied, the goal is the same: to use a current event to position yourself as a problem solver for that particular kind of issue. Use your judgement when engaging—pick stories that complement your practice and use a tone of voice that will connect with the kind of client you want to cultivate.
Newsjacking empowers you to amplify your practice by tapping into the contemporary zeitgeist and offering timely public commentary on a news story, event, or trend.
As a legal professional, you will want to be selective about how and when you newsjack—consideration should be given to the topic at hand, your business goals, and how to best engage your audience. But by connecting the dots between your practice and contemporary events, you can demonstrate the value of your services in an easily identifiable way and simultaneously grow your audience and, ideally, your clientele. When used strategically, newsjacking can be a useful tool for business development.