lawyer-gun

When Don’t Thugs and Lawyers Mix Well?

A criminal defense attorney may not have the most glamorous job in the profession. However, Daniel Muessig has embraced the job, and created a video to advertise his services that has gotten him more clients. The video has gone viral and has gotten a lot of media attention, but it’s also controversial and has made other attorneys upset. 

When I first saw it, I thought it was a Saturday Night Live parody sketch because it has a hip hop style and seems silly, not serious. Muessig also uses words such as “liar” and “scumbug” to describe other lawyers. It doesn’t seem professional, and Muessig doesn’t care. He wants to connect with potential clients and says, “I think like a criminal” and tells them that consequences “suck”.


He’s probably glad the video has worked for him financially and has gotten him a lot of media coverage, but in the long run, it could be harmful. Other lawyers have commented in various articles that it negatively affects their professional image, and I agree. If he wants to have a bigger firm in the future, this sophomoric video has already affected what people think of him. Even if he decides to remove the video from YouTube, the articles written about him will still be online, and people have probably already duplicated the video to post it elsewhere.
Even if an attorney is struggling to get clients, he or she should be careful when using social media and doing things that could get the wrong media attention. A publicity plan should be about the future as well as the present.


train-station

What Can Trains, Toilets and the French Teach Us About Public Relations?

I was on vacation with my family, and we stayed in a hotel that got their measurements wrong. The bathroom door in our room couldn’t close because it was not able to clear the toilet, so the hotel had to cut part of the door off to make it work.
Who would’ve thought France would make the same kind of mistake, but much worse? Jolie Lee in USA Today shared a story about how France had to spend almost 70 million dollars to fix over 1,000 train stations because the trains they ordered were too wide for the platforms. I remember when I took woodworking class in school, they told us to measure twice, and cut once. It’s a simple concept that’s been around for years, but France’s national railway system obviously didn’t check everything out before deciding to use the new trains.  
You also have to measure your publicity campaign to make it fit, but in that case, it has to fit various audiences. What might work for the mainstream media might not work for your employees because public relations is about internal and external communication. For instance, if you work for a publicly traded company, the press releases should have formal language and be written in such a way as to not violate any regulations when you announce earnings or corporate mergers. Even press releases that cover new products are usually written in a stiffer style. However, if you use that same kind of language in internal communications for employees, they might think you’re being too stiff, out of touch, or unapproachable, and their livelihoods could be affected. On the other hand, if you decide to communicate with your employees with a more casual style, it could end up reflecting badly on you when you use that same style with the media. Basically, you can create the same message for the media and employees,but the way it’s delivered should be customized. 

So before you launch your communications plan, make sure it fits, and be consistent with the audience you’re talking to. You don’t want your message to “pull into the wrong station” with employees, management, or federal regulators. Simple phrases could do a lot of damage and even affect morale.

calculator-face

Time Magazine Reporter Needs a Math Lesson

It’s amazing how people can use any kind of number to make their point, even in an established media outlet. Joe Klein wrote “Obamacare: Mend it, Don’t End it” in Time magazine, and since it’s a major publication that’s been around for a while, you’d expect to read solid information that backs up his opinion.
However, he seems to see numbers his own “special” way, since they don’t really add up. He defends the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and says it’s running pretty well, then uses a poll to prove his point:
“The word of mouth seems to be … not bad: a recent ABC News–Washington Post poll actually had more Americans in favor of Obamacare than opposed to it, by an overpowering 49% to 48%.”
Overpowering? It’s been a while since I’ve had math, but even I can see that 49 percent is barely different than 48. It’s just a difference of one percentage point, which doesn’t match the definition of “overpowering”. Even though he’s writing an editorial, not a straight news piece, he’s entitled to his opinion, but his argument becomes weak with those numbers that are barely different.
Later on, though, he’s more accurate when he says, “A recent Kaiser family foundation poll shows that 59% of Americans want to see this program improved…” That sounds more “overwhelming” than the other percentage he gave to prove a point that wasn’t really proven.

Joe Klein is an experienced journalist, and the fact that he’s twisted information to try to support his ideas is a lesson for anyone. If you want to use statistics or polls to support your position, make sure you’re using solid information that truly matches what you want to say. Otherwise, it can negatively affect your reputation. In Klein’s case, he seems to be doing fine, but most people shouldn’t take such a chance. What you say should be solid and helpful.
banana-peel

Lady in the Banana Peal Suit Slips Up in Court

It’s not so ap-pealing: Catherine Conrad, aka the “Banana Lady”, has slipped up after filing several lawsuits for copyright infringement. Kim Janssen, who’s a Federal Courts Reporter for the Sun-Times, says after Conrad has performed with her puppet monkey and has done “The Banana Shake” for various groups, she’s sued because people have used her image or have posted videos of her online.

However, her latest litigious effort has failed at the U.S.“Appeals Court. She sued several credit unions after people posted videos of her on Facebook. The judge said she doesn’t own the copyright of her banana costume because it’s “a common consumer product” and said her lawsuit is an “abuse of the legal process”.
Not only are her legal actions obviously frivolous, but she doesn’t seem to understand publicity, either. Hopefully the judge’s decision will prevent other lawsuits, and hopefully she’ll learn some publicity lessons because she’s missed a basic concept. It’s helpful when people organically share what someone is doing because it can result in more positive exposure for the person. However, by not letting people share her image and videos, Conrad is cutting off a natural marketing plan, and she’s only getting negative publicity for all the lawsuits she’s filed.

By the way, what’s interesting about this case is that her attorney’s name wasn’t in the story, probably because he or she doesn’t want to slip on the Banana Lady’s rotten peel.

cigarette-smoke

Did the Marlboro Man Go “Up in Smoke?”

There’s an expression: “tragedy plus time equals comedy”, and when a guy who portrayed the Marlboro Man in advertising died this year from a smoking-related illness, it was tragic, and also seemed like a punch line to a sad joke.

Eric Lawson had smoked since he was 14, and he smoked most of his life. Even though he had a hard time quitting, he told people to not smoke because he knew it was unhealthy (and he wasn’t the only Marlboro Man who died from a smoking-related illness, according to an article by Nate Jones in People magazine). Actually, I also created my own anti-smoking campaign when I was growing up because I constantly bothered my parents to quit, and they eventually did–and that was before the government promoted that smoking was harmful.

Whether the government is involved or not, it just goes to show that no matter what attractive images companies put out there, the truth will come out. It can seem like false advertising when a company has a message that is destructive or simply is not true.

Whatever you’re willing to commit to in your promotional messages, you should be genuine so that there won’t be any negative consequences. You can dress something up to make it pretty, but if it doesn’t have much substance and ends up misleading people, it will eventually catch up with you. Then you’ll have to spend a lot of time and energy on damage control.



darts-board

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Misses the Mark

Once a person expresses his or her true feelings on a subject, it’s impossible to take those words back, and the consequences become more extreme in the media.

That’s a lesson Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart probably learned when he spoke to student journalists. Brian Slodysko in the Chicago Sun-Timesreports Dart told the students, “Most of the people in my world hate the media,” and said even though he doesn’t hate them, “I feel sorry for them.”

He even criticized objectivity when journalists want to get both sides of a story: “one thing that always eats at me.”

Not only was his speech covered in the Sun-Times but it was posted on YouTube, and even though it hasn’t gotten a lot of hits, he obviously struck a negative cord with the people who are supposed to cover him fairly. 

His spokesperson didn’t really help the situation either when she said he’s a “passionate guy” who wants to help aspiring journalists. What Dart should have done is said “sorry”, not assign a representative to explain away his opinions with an insincere statement. 

It’s another example of how people have to think before they speak, and since attorneys work on sensitive cases, it makes it even more important. However, if you have said something you shouldn’t have, it’s better to offer a real apology so that people won’t think poorly of you. Also, it’s important to do it yourself, not issue a statement through your publicist. If you’re not sure how to go about it, talk to your public relations professional so that you can express yourself in an intelligent, positive way. 
 

man-mouth-weapons

Would a Lawyer Ever Say Something Unkind?

Trials are hard enough, but attorneys get even more frustrated and disappointed when the verdict isn’t in their favor. They can even become angry and have lots of problems with their clients, like Drew Peterson and his lawyer, Joel Brodsky, when Peterson was convicted of killing his wife.

Brodsky went on TV after the verdict and “blamed Peterson for moves he made at the trial” according to Joseph Hosey in the Bollingbrook Patch.

There’s a more recent example of an attorney bad-mouthing his client in the United Arab Emirates. He called him “the most stupid murderer I have seen in 40 years”after he was convicted of murdering a woman who claimed he got her pregnant, even though they didn’t have sex. He killed her with a stone and put her body in a bathtub and set the home on fire. The body survived because the bathtub was filled with water.

Attorneys might have dim-witted clients, but they shouldn’t bad-mouth them in public. It will only affect future client relationships. It could also impact their practice because potential clients will see them as unprofessional and possibly inept, so they won’t hire them. Besides, if an attorney criticizes a client publicly, it can show a lack of judgment for taking the client on in the first place. It’s just unwise all around, and can negatively affect a lawyer’s reputation.

As my mother said, “if you can’t say something nice about somebody, shut up!” (Mom’s comment was embellished for this blog post). 

swimsuit-heart

Is Barbie Lust Right for Your Daughter?

The swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated is popular for the same reason Playboy is: the pictures. They appeal to men’s desires and fantasies (and not the good ones).  

Now Mattel has gotten in on the action by creating the Barbie Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Doll. It was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the magazine, and it’s an updated version of the original 1959 model. What’s interesting is Target, where it’s exclusively sold, says it’s “For the adult collector” even though they say the suggested age is from six years old. Often “logic” gets lost in marketing.

When I was growing up, six year-olds didn’t play with Barbies that looked like that. They were more wholesome-looking, but it seems like Mattel wants to stay with the times by making the doll look more sexy.  

Parents who want to remember how Barbie used to be probably are wondering why they should buy it for their daughters. The image of the doll has changed, and it’s been cheapened to be more attractive to men as give girls a false image of beauty. That goal in itself seems disturbing.

The Barbie brand’s public image has changed, but that doesn’t mean our public relations message should. If there’s a central message that made you successful in the first place, don’t cheapen it when you post a rude image on Pinterest and other social media. After all, hem lines might rise and fall, but let’s keep everything covered and decent. 

judge-yell

Do Lawyers or Judges Get the Last Laugh?

Often, it seems attorneys wished judges would get bad press and get scrutinized by the public, when they make a “bad” decision against their client. Well it looks like Cook County jail is helping them achieve that.

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article by Robert Herguth and Dane Placko about judges getting upset because they have to show their IDs and open their car trunks every time they go in and out of the parking lot at the Leighton Criminal Court Building near Cook County Jail. Apparently, a lot of them are resisting the procedure because the article has a long list of what they’ve done, such as one calling 911 and others swearing at officers.

You’d think since they’re judges, they’d try to be more professional, especially since “judges behaving badly” makes a good story in the media. But they don’t seem to care, which is the problem: they should think about their public reputation and be careful about what they say.

Even though lawyers are probably happy the judges embarrassed themselves, the lawyers can learn from the judges’ mistakes. When you’re in court, you have to be completely professional to win a case and not lose your cool. That’s also important outside of court. Wherever you are, the media is watching and ready to record your actions, which also means the public can easily form a negative opinion about you.

Previously, I mentioned defense attorney James Ecker, who developed a style walking to and from court. He got the media’s attention, and a lot of people’s respect. He won cases and won in the court of public opinion.

So the next time you’re facing a situation that’s difficult, think before speaking. Don’t let others get the last laugh…at you.

goat-fence

Publicity that Gets my “Goat”

You never know what will work with the media. Usually people think of using groundbreaking technology to create attention-grabbing publicity, but here’s something that tremendous national and local attention that has nothing to do with tech: goats.

Heather Cherone in DNA Info says that’s how O’Hare took care of its weeds. Actually, llamas, burros, sheep, and camels helped the goats out.

It totally worked, not just practically when the animals chomped the weeds away, but in terms of generating lots of buzz. It made O’Hare help counter the negative media coverage it usually gets for cancelled flights and horrible weather, and it helped Butcher & the Burger restaurant, which supplied the animals. The restaurant’s business increased, and they also got exposure for Settler’s Pond Shelter, which supplied some of the animals (the restaurant made a donation to the shelter, too). It was successful on many levels and is one of the most effective publicity campaigns I’ve ever seen.

So when you’re looking for ways to get publicity for your business, think creatively. It’s not just about the latest app or gizmo, but it’s how you get media attention with the resources you already have available.

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