Category Archives: tc public relations


Funny Money Man

I saw a story on NPR’s website called, “Who Knew? Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke Is A Funny Guy,”  by Mark Memmott with a transcript of the Federal Reserve Chairman’s commencement address at Princeton. I was impressed that he could use humor, even though he seems like such a serious guy. He even quoted Lily Tomlin, which is the last thing I’d expect from him. 

Bernanke’s approach can be a lesson for attorneys. Usually lawyers are careful when dealing with the media, which I totally understand, because they have to be very careful about what they say. However, because they have to be calculating about their words or actions, they might look cold or even inhuman to other people, which can affect their reputation and their client’s image. 

That’s why I often advise attorneys to communicate some light-heartedness when speaking to the media or releasing press statements. Wherever you speak or issue a statement, you should think about your audience. At a conference with other attorneys, for example, you can be more serious and use more specialized language. However, there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling what you say with some humor, like Bernanke did.
On the other hand, when you speak to a more general audience who wouldn’t understand or appreciation legalese, you should find a way to connect with the public by avoiding being very intense or serious. You have to be careful about what you divulge, of course, so you have to decide beforehand what your boundaries are, but there’s nothing wrong with lightening up a little for the press. After all, if the Federal Reserve Chairman of the United States can do it, you can too. 


Is a Donut Better for You than a Salad?

Candice Choi’s article, “Dunkin’ Donuts adds doughnut bacon sandwich to menu”in the Chicago Sun-Times is a great public relations move. The sandwich consists of fried eggs and bacon on a glazed doughnut, so I don’t think I could eat it unless I extend my daily workout from one hour to five. However, what Dunkin’ Donuts is doing is newsworthy. 

Everyone knows that fatty, sugary, salty foods aren’t good for you, so fast food restaurants, even McDonald’s, are offering salads and more healthy food. You’d think that since people are more health-conscious, they would want more healthy food, and even Choi says that sales have increased because of the healthier menus. However, Dunkin’ Donuts is giving people what they’re wired to crave, and it seems like a novelty. After all, PR-wise, healthy food doesn’t seem as exciting, but a crazy, caloric sandwich can make a splash. 

It reminds me that what’s old is new again, because for years fast food restaurants didn’t offer healthy food, and Dunkin’ Donuts is returning to that approach. In that way, what Dunkin’ Donuts is doing seems contrarian in their publicity efforts. However, the company really scored because the sandwich will cause lots of conversations online and off. I bet people have even been posting photos online of them eating it just to show others how adventurous they can be. 

After looking at what that company has done, think about what you can do that will be noticed and that people will talk about. Maybe you’re not a proponent of unhealthy food, but if you look at your business, there’s probably something you can find that’s noteworthy. 

By the way, if you’ve tried the sandwich, let me know.  


Hot, Hot Photos on Cold Cold Day

I’ve been saying for a while that one way to promote yourself is through photos, and I was reminded of their importance when I saw a fire. Actually, I didn’t see a real fire where I live or work, but I’ve been following the story about a big fire in Bridgeport. Even though we hear about fires throughout Chicago, we might not pay much attention to them, unless they’re part of a case that an attorney is working on or if there is a lot of drama surrounding them. 

Since that fire in Bridgeport was in an abandoned building, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but then I saw photos of it popping up on Facebook and other social media. What got people’s attention was the aftermath of the fire. The firemen spent hours in frigid temperatures fighting the blaze, and the water they used ended up freezing so that the building looked beautiful.

At first, stunning photos were posted on the Chicago Tribune website. Then the social news site BuzzFeedposted “amazing photos of [the] beautifully icy aftermath” that were taken by photographers from various media services. After that, news websites around the world posted photos, including the Wall Street Journal. Who would’ve thought that a fire in an area of the city that isn’t visited by many people would become worldwide news?

I often talk about the speed of modern media, and how attorneys have to be ready to respond because the news cycle happens in hours and even minutes. When you have a serious case that is getting a lot of publicity, you might feel pressure to act responsibly so that you don’t get negative press. However, in other parts of your life, such speed could work in your favor. Even if you simply see a really beautiful bird on your vacation, take a picture and post in on your website and in other social media. You don’t need the fancy cameras that professional photographers have; you can just use your phone. After all, you never know where your photo might end up and what attention it can get to help your reputation.

When is Being Red and Fat a Sign of Good Health?

Christmas is around the corner, and as usual, we’ve been inundated with Santa Claus. Actually, I’ve seen Santa Claus around since I was a kid, so he’s been with me pretty much my whole life. When I think of Santa, a fat, round, red guy comes to mind, and not a spokesperson for healthy living. 

Yet AARP created an interesting twist with Santa by making a list of why he’s actually healthy in “Claus and Effect”. Have you ever thought of Santa as being the picture of health? I sure haven’t, but AARP has come up with some ways we can be inspired by him so that we can be healthy too. The tips include generosity (“hand out toys”), sitting less (“climbing chimneys”), and having a pet (“get a reindeer”). 

It just goes to show that everything old can become new again if we learn to repackage something. So as you run around stressed out and enjoying treats, think of Santa. If he can be considered healthy, then we can too. And it’s also a good time to think about how you can reinvent your media message to be fresh and ready for the new year.
Merry Christmas!

Running for Mayor? Or Mayor is Running?

When I saw this news piece on Fox Chicago about a strip club opening next to a convent and school, I was surprised that the Mayor of Stone Park ran away from Dane Placko and shut the door on him, right on camera for all of Chicago (and the world online) to see. After all, nowadays people know (or should know) that their behavior on camera, in print, online–wherever the media is–will be captured and will definitely affect their reputation. The Mayor not only looks like a coward, but his response seems like he’s got something to hide. Does he? I don’t know, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. It could help the public form a “guilty” verdict down the road.


Can a Dog Be Trained to Sniff Out Public Relations Opportunities?

I came upon an interesting article in Businessweek about“Argentina’s Dollar-Sniffing Wonder Dogs” and how they’re sniffing for US currency to prevent “capital flight” from that country. That’s the first time that I’ve seen something about dogs sniffing for money, not drugs, but I guess countries have to get creative to prevent disasters.

It’s too bad that the online article doesn’t show the picture of a cute sniffing golden retriever in the ferry terminal, so if you get a chance, try to take a look at the magazine picture. Actually, I can walk down any street in Chicago and smell different kinds of pizza. So if the city ever has a pizza problem, I could be the guy for them (even though I’m not as cute as those dogs).

That sniffing-dog article reminds us that we should be sniffing out media opportunities. While media websites have reporters’ or producers’ bios, you shouldn’t stop there. Search on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to “sniff out” a better personal connection between you and that journalist so that you can pitch them better. At the very least, it will allow you to include something that is more personal and customized. And they’ll appreciate it, though you have to remember to be sincere because the media don’t like phonies.

Lawyers Lie and Other Truths About Attorneys

Inside Counsel has an article called “37% of people say lawyers have ‘very low’ ethical standards” and the title really says it all: too many attorneys do not have a good reputation.

 The article gets that statistic from a Gallup poll that was conducted earlier this month, and even though we’re almost at a new year, I don’t think these statistics will improve much, unless some lawyers work on developing a better reputation.

When an attorney really is dishonest, he or she doesn’t deserve to have a good reputation, so I’m not talking about that type of lawyer. Even though there are unethical people in every profession, I doubt that the number of unethical lawyers adds up to 37 percent.  

Which means that attorneys have a lot to fix if they want the public to trust them. Think of all the education they’ve gotten and all the hard work they’ve done, to only be greeted with disdain from the public. That’s not good. 

What you should think about doing in the new year is planning to work against the negativity by offering good advice and help in the public square. There are many ways to improve your reputation and not get lumped in with the rotten attorneys. You can post helpful information on your own website, write an article, do an interview, be an expert in the media, make a speech at an organization, volunteer at your children’s school, participate in community projects, and more. 

Maybe Gallup will do another poll, and by the end of 2012, attorneys’ reputation stats will be better. Let’s hope so. 

Would Jon Bon Jovi Be Better Off Dead?

Recently, to prove to people that he’s not dead, Jon Bon Jovi posted a picture of himself online with the statement that “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey”. I’m sure a lot of people think what he did is funny and are probably very happy to find out that he’s really alive, after rumors of his death were all over the Internet. However, I’m not laughing. I don’t consider myself a serious guy and I like to find humor wherever I can, but Bon Jovi is really making light of an eternal matter.

Newsflash to Bon Jovi: heaven isn’t really New Jersey. I think it’s arrogant to say that, and he never really died to find out where heaven really is. Plus, if he was right, how come no one has found John Lennon, Elvis, or Ray Charles there? 

Bon Jovi’s joke is a way to think about how your reputation is on the line in whatever you do. It’s important to not make light of serious matters when it comes to your own reputation management. What will people think of him from now on? Have you ever made a mistake by saying or doing something that was too frivolous for a serious situation? How did people respond? If you’re thinking of saying something in public you know is questionable, then consider what kind of image you’re putting out there. Everyone doesn’t have the same sense of humor and doesn’t see the world in the same way.

Learn from the Pig

When I was growing up, “pig” meant the source of bacon, sausage, a good ham for the holidays, and even a derogatory name for the police during protests. Who knew “pig” would end up meaning big profits?
People find lots of different uses for pigs, and even Business Week has taken notice of the the pork rind battle going on for dominant market share. It sounds silly that those companies are taking pork rinds so seriously because to some people, that part of the pig doesn’t seem as important as the meat, but they’re obviously making good money from that business because a lot of people like to eat the skins of pigs. 

When put that way, it doesn’t sound appetizing, but anything we do can sound different as long as we present it in a way that people will take interest. 

Which brings me to our own publicity efforts. Like the pig industry, we can get a lot of different uses with our own content. For instance, if you write an article for a trade publication, it can also go on your blog, become a pitch for the media, be the basis of a video, and can even become an outline for a speech at a professional association. There are many ways you can use your content; just figure out which part of it people are interested in, and modify it to appeal to them the most. And it’s important to remember that in addition to creating appealing content, you should offer information that can benefit people so that you’re not just tooting your own horn. That way, you’ll profit in various ways.


Immature or Savvy Legal Marketing?

A lot of men have bald or thinning hair, some have a potbelly, and others aren’t thrilled about getting older. You can make money from that! Or at least from being bald. No, this isn’t a sales pitch to grow your hair, but a way a lawyer is pitching himself to get new clients in his ads for
I read about it at the Legal Watch blog where they pointed out other examples of ways that lawyers stand out from the competition with garish or racy images. It’s a great way to create buzz because it’s controversial, but is it really appropriate for a professional? When promoting your firm, you should consider what kind of image you want people to walk away with. If you want to be smart, it’s best to avoid such tactics.  

In some ways, doing whatever it takes to get more clients than other lawyers seems sophomoric and immature. I’m sure those attorneys who have billboards with half-dressed women to promote the benefits of divorce aren’t lacking in clients and have made decent money from selling their merchandise, but what about their reputation? You don’t have to cheapen yourself to make a good living. In the long run, behaving like a professional is better than making a flashy splash and being remembered for being silly.  

So it’s something to think about: do you want to make lots of money at any cost, or do you want people to respect you by promoting your firm in a professional way? I’d take the latter.