How to use new media to access old media

  • August 15, 2014
  • Jordan Furlong

We hear a lot of talk these days about the death of “old media” like TV and newspapers and the unstoppable rise of “new media” in its place. Well, CBC-TV still aired The National last night, The Globe & Mail still arrived on my doorstep this morning, and the last time I checked, my local radio stations were still reporting on traffic conditions every ten minutes. So I think it's a little premature to declare the revolution complete.

Lawyers interested in building a higher public profile with which to attract clients would be making a serious error if they believed newspapers, magazines and broadcasters are no longer reliable means to that end. When editors and journalists seek you out and report your thoughts and insights on a subject — whether by interview or written contribution —  they hold you up as a reliable authority to a mass audience, at no charge. That's not a bad result.

But here’s the thing: one of the most effective ways to get the attention of old media is through the strategic use of new media. Blogs, Twitter, and even LinkedIn are known as effective marketing and business development tools for lawyers, but they’re also extremely handy ways to establish your expertise with editors, reporters and news producers. And they come with the attractive feature of bring virtually free.

Here are some thoughts about ways in which you can use the much-vaunted new media to make an impact in venerable old media.

Blogs: If you take away only three words from this article, they are these: Journalists read blogs. I say this both as a former journalist and magazine editor, and as someone who has received multiple media inquiries from the U.S. and the U.K. based on a single blog post. Not only do reporters subscribe to blogs, but they constantly conduct Google searches, and Google loves blogs for a host of search-engine-related reasons.

Journalists recognize not only that lawyers’ blogs provide the latest insights in a given area, but also that the lawyers behind those blogs are articulate, engaging, forthright, and confident in their opinions. As a journalist, those are exactly the sources you want to use. Moreover, the longer a blogger has been around and the more frequent his or her dispatches, the more confidence that will inspire in a reporter that this is someone worth contacting.

The internet is filled with general “employment law blogs” and “personal injury blogs,” so I recommend focusing your blog’s editorial mandate as tightly as feasible. Stand out from the crowd with a niche or specialization: a collective bargaining blog, a brain injury blog, a patent protection for start-ups blog, and so forth — your designated specialty, the thing for which you want to be known. If you have multiple practice focuses you want to promote, publish a blog on each one. If you have a truly general practice, focus the blog along other lines: your city or town, your province or region, your most common type of client, your alternative billing system.

Finally, tell all your blog visitors that hey, by the way, you’re available to speak with the media or contribute articles to periodicals. If you’re hankering after an interview, post a two-minute video clip of yourself in conversation about a trending subject in your area, so that producers can preview the goods. If you want to write articles, make brief (up to 800 words) sample articles on topical issues available for download. And provide a suite of personal contact information prominently on the web page.

Twitter: I think we can now dispense with the tired jokes that Twitter is for telling people what your cat is doing or what you had for lunch. Twitter is an extraordinary personal branding and communication platform, one through which you can show off expertise, curate specialized knowledge, build subscriber bases, and strike up valuable networking relationships. Twitter is “headline news” for the internet, and reporters are coming to rely heavily upon it.

Journalists use Twitter for the same reason they use blogs: they’re seeking breaking news, fresh insights and trusted authorities, only in real time. For that reason, most reporters derive very little value from a typical law firm Twitter feed, which simply regurgitates the firm’s staffing announcements and press releases and makes it all about the firm, not all about the user.

Members of the media do find value in Twitter streams that point readers towards useful articles on the stream’s specific subject, suggest other valuable Twitter accounts to follow, and at least occasionally link to the tweeter’s own website, blog or source of expertise. That is how lawyers should be operating Twitter accounts — that’s what get their entries forwarded, retweeted, and cited across the internet.

Once you’ve established a valuable Twitter feed along these lines, the easiest way to start attracting the attention of the media is to find reporters on Twitter who work for your target broadcasters or publications, and follow them. More often than not, they’ll follow you back, and they'll soon start to see just how much you know. Then comes the opportunity to correspond via Twitter’s Direct Message function and start building relationships.

LinkedIn: Relationships, of course, are what LinkedIn — the world’s online Rolodex — is all about (Twitter contacts, in fact, often lead to LinkedIn relationships). That can make LinkedIn especially valuable for lawyers where the media are concerned, because the best and most productive collaborations between lawyers and reporters take place in the context of a relationship of mutual appreciation and respect. But building those relationships takes time and effort.

If you have pre-existing relationships with members of the media, you can use LinkedIn to deepen and strengthen them. But more caution is called for when using LinkedIn to initiate a relationship. Cold-call connection requests to reporters, bearing no message or explanation of who you are and why you’d like to connect, can meet an equally frosty reception. Connect through existing mutual contacts, in response to a recent story, or to offer a no-charge conversation about a current subject in your area of expertise.

LinkedIn also has similar profile enhancement benefits as blogs and Twitter. For instance, there are lawyers who swear by LinkedIn’s Answers feature, which invite users to provide replies to questions posed by other users (a new online service, Quora, offers much the same functionality). LinkedIn also allows you to stream your Twitter feed through your account and let your connections, including contacts in the media, read what you have to say.

“New media” isn’t really that different from “old media” — they’re both platforms through which knowledge is distributed and around which people gather for information. The key differences are that (a) new media are based on conversations and relationships, and (b) anyone, including you, can use them to establish authority and trustworthiness without the massive organizational support required by networks or newspapers. You don’t need to choose between mew media and old media; you can use one to help you access the other.

Jordan Furlong is a Senior Consultant with Stem Legal who advises clients on web strategy, communications and social media. He is also a partner with Edge International who analyzes the extraordinary changes underway in the legal marketplace. He authors the award-winning blog Law21: Dispatches from a Legal Profession on the Brink ( and can be reached at