The new client’s brother had a list of news media reporters who had left their numbers. My first job was to get that all handled as quickly as possible.
The issue of timeliness in the news has dramatically changed over the past decade. When I first learned how to work with the media, Sue Evans media consultant, used to advise us not to immediately take a reporter’s call. To get the messaging straight first, sometimes by committee, then call back. The process used to include putting together formal press releases, vetting them, hiring a publicist, gathering reporters perhaps with a week’s notice, and then doing a formal presentation. Those days are no longer here.
Waiting is no longer an option in our world of instant sound byte news via twitter and facebook livestream..
In high profile cases, being media savvy is part of a trial lawyer’s job. The (eventual) defendant will be busy framing the issues the way they want them to be perceived. To ignore media coverage is not an option.
Covid however has put a crimp in how stories are covered. In the past few weeks, I’ve participated in two large press conferences and a radio show. Only the radio show via zoom was business as usual. Here are three tips that are needed until the pandemic ebbs.
- Pick a quiet outside location. Inside at least right now in Seattle is not an option. The reporters cannot gather together inside. They all must wear masks. Even so, today one of the reporters called to apologize that someone else was going to be coming in their stead as she had come down with Covid probably from covering the protests. Even outside the reporters do not stand 6 feet apart. The logistics just don’t work. The first conference was for Dan Gregory, a hero who was shot during Seattle protests while stopping a car of a man currently charged with aggravated assault. It was held on the bottom level of my house outside because the upper floor deck created a ceiling and it was raining out. Even so, one of the reporters was leaning over the bush covered wall where a fountain exists (though turned off at the time). She had greenery sticking up and into her face as she asked questions. It worked. But it was tight. The second conference was for the family of Summer Taylor, who was hit and killed on I-5 during the Seattle Protests by a man currently in jail and charged with vehicular homicide. It was held.in the clients’ backyard. Grandpa is a master gardener specializing in roses and he was pruning even as the camera crews began to arrive.
- Wear masks and have a plan for what to do with them. My kids are nervous I will get covid. So I wear a mask even when speaking. Have had to experiment with some of the styles as some will stick to your mouth when you speak. The cone shape ones keep their shape the best. The blue paper masks are the worst. No one can talk through them and the tendency is to push them under the chin. So it looks like you have a chin hammock going on. Some people don’t want to wear masks and I disagree with that but will not pass judgment here. In general – in a highly populated close quarters press conference the masks should be worn. Professional mic’s have no problem picking up the words just fine. The reporters do their best to keep theirs on as they should since they are not social distancing. Distance is a tough factor. The mic’s have to all be at a certain close in distance.
- Provide photos or video to help illustrate. With covid there are more restrictions on action shots. They can’t go inside and have people walking around here or there or doing things. Even outside, there is a general pall that squelches the opportunity or desire to show activity. For example, reporters in the past had clients, drive up in a car, or walk with their cane down the street, or roll their wheel chair through the halls of the nursing room. They have been allowed to come into hospital rooms, to cover physical therapy appointments. Those days will come again. But for now the norm is the dreaded zoom interview with the associated terrible sound quality. With the occasional outdoor coverage opportunity. Providing photographs of a client before and/or after an incident are greatly appreciated especially by tv news channels.
Photo: Media setting up in clients’ backyard in these covid times.