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.


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.


McDonald’s Is Now Serving “Egg on Its Face”

McDonald’s is a huge, established company, but it’s still making public relations mistakes that you would expect from a start-up business. The latest is its internal website for employees, where several posts talked about the negative effects of fast food, the same kind of food that McDonald’s has been selling for years. If the company had been paying attention to what it was communicating, it probably wouldn’t have let those posts be written. But NBC News says they were created by an outside vendor, so McDonald’s wasn’t carefully supervising who they hired.
Before that leaked out, there was another publicity gaff that also came from an internal employee site.The company gave advice for tipping au pairs, pool cleaners, housekeepers, dog walkers, and personal trainers. What it failed to notice was a lot of McDonald’s employees earn minimum wage, which is what they’ve been protesting about this year. Again, the advice was written by a third party, which shows a sloppy communication plan and a lack of quality control.

Whether you’re hiring an outside company or you’re handling your own publicity, it’s important to pay attention to your internal and external communication. The two are connected, and you never know what disgruntled employees will leak to the press. Make sure your message is consistent, because if you present a public image that doesn’t match your in-house one, your reputation will be damaged, and you’ll have to be even more creative with your crisis communication plan.

What Can Attorneys Learn from “Ground Up Cow on a Bun?”

Recently, prominent Pittsburgh defense lawyer James Ecker passed away. Usually attorneys don’t get so much media coverage, especially if they’re just known locally. However, Ecker had a long relationship with the media because of the way he communicated with reporters and how he described his high-profile clients who were accused of horrible crimes.
He was effective in presenting interesting visuals for television, such as walking with his clients into police stations and out of courtrooms, and he chose his words carefully. To defend such clients, he had to be a good storyteller, to paint a picture that helped reduce their sentences, which made him even more notorious. His law partner said he “‘was the ringmaster’ in many high-profile cases.” 
Ecker was effective inside and outside the courtroom, but many attorneys are not effective in both areas. However, when communicating with the non-legal media, attorneys should be good storytellers and be able to use effective metaphors. Even scientists have discovered that using metaphors causes the brain to work differently. Salon features an article by Tori Rodriguez from Scientific American about a study that described crime in two different ways. People’s decisions on how to fight crime were influenced by the metaphors used.
One metaphor I’ll never forget is from my fourth grade language arts class. The teacher told us there are different ways we can talk about something. For instance, you can call a sandwich you eat a hamburger, which for beef eaters is a pleasant experience. You could also say it’s ground-up cow on a bun, which groups such as PETA could use to criticize people who eat meat.

Therefore, if you’re talking to a reporter, think about if you’re telling a story or “painting a picture” that will influence those receiving your message as you intended.