We review today’s biggest legal story and consider to what lengths the solicitors behind the case had to go in order to stay ahead of the story
Most law firm PRs know instinctively when they have a case that’s going to be big news and this week GLP Solicitors has been in just such a position. With Managing Partner Neil Sugarman representing a girl whose mother’s excessive drinking during pregnancy had left her disabled from birth, this case was clearly of national significance.
The only question from a legal PR point of view was, could GLP’s profile benefit from being associated with the coverage?
When it comes to media interest, cases like these speak for themselves and unlike day to day stories, PR specialists have little to do beyond providing journalists with dates, facts and where appropriate, access to interviewees; there is no ‘selling in’ required.
The situation must be delicately handled of course but as long as the correct processes and procedures are followed, it is entirely possible for everyone to maintain their integrity and avoid any nasty accusations of opportunism.
However, the PR does have one very important role beyond shepherding journalists around. The client and above all, their firm name, must be positioned alongside the practitioner’s credentials for every possible quote and interview clip.
I first heard of the case on Thursday morning, when the presenters on BBC Breakfast TV quoted the lawyer but failed to reference his firm or indeed his name. It seemed that for now at least, the opportunity was so close… and yet so far.
On Thursday evening I reviewed the coverage the case had generated throughout the day. A search ‘drinking whilst pregnant’ was narrowed to news for the last 24 hours. As the biggest story of the day it was no great surprise that there were just short of 100 results.
An interesting piece I came across was a video on Parentdish website, which appears to be from ITV Good Morning Britain. This video reflects very well on the interviewee and his team in securing a great interview for Neil on the morning show which has an audience of over half a million. Unfortunately, Neil’s name check without the GLP brand is an all too common scenario, which a polite nudge to the day’s producer invariably sorts out.
Of course it’s easy to dismiss the pedantic PR person nagging ‘please can you mention our firm in the interview’, but if the client was, say, CEO of a FTSE 100 company being interviewed by the same programme about their annual results, it seems unlikely that their name and profession alone would do the trick. Next time you watch (Easyjet boss) Carolyn McCall explaining her company’s performance, imagine the label ‘Airline boss’ next to her name and see if that would get past their press office…
However, I am perhaps being a little over critical and perhaps it was just because Good Morning Britain was broadcast first thing in the morning. If you look further, GLP Solicitors did get some excellent mentions including the all important BBC News web site; Daily Mail, The Independent and The Guardian.
With a little more analysis, it appears the coverage shows that Neil’s quotes came from two different releases, drafted before and after the judgment. GLP Solicitors had most likely prepared the main body of the release with win/lose quotes ahead of events in addition to teeing up media outlets by offering commentary or interviews after. This is an excellent practice and helps maintain a certain level of control.
Overall, we salute Neil and GLP solicitors for keeping a level head in what must have been an extremely tiring 24 hours.
With a strong network of media contacts and in-depth knowledge of professional services, Christina advises a range of businesses and law firms on media and business development initiatives.