Attendees gather for a Legal Marketing Association event featuring a panel of in-house corporate counsel, at Snell & Wilmer, Phoenix, Sept. 26, 2012.

This week, I get to interact with many communications and PR professionals, and that leads me to wonder: Could their best practices align quite a bit with those of lawyers?

That thought occurred to me as I prepared to moderate a Wednesday panel at Snell & Wilmer for the Legal Marketing Association. The panel was comprised of in-house corporate counsel, and the audience included both lawyers and communications folks.

It was a blast, and I continue to be impressed by the deep level of commitment and quality that emanates from the LMA. As I said in my opening remarks, their story pitches and sharing of information are what allow us to cover our beat well.

But story pitches—and lawyers—are much on my mind this week, mainly because of a panel I will sit on this Saturday.

The “8th Annual Publicity Summit” is co-hosted by the local chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Society of America. (Could those organization names be a little more intimidating, please?) I’ve been in the SPJ for years, and I’ll be on a panel of magazine editors, writers and reporters.

Here is how the PRSA describes the event:

“Now is your chance to secure that challenging story you have been working on or meet face-to-face with your favorite media person. [Beat] Join PRSA Phoenix Chapter and Society of Professional Journalists for the 8th Annual Publicity Summit and the opportunity to network with peers, meet key members of the Phoenix media and get your stories placed. More than 20 of The Valley’s top journalists and reporters from various media outlets across multiple beats will be in attendance.”

You can find more information and registration pages online. (Registration may be closed by the time you click the second link.)

It will be in the downtown Phoenix ASU Cronkite Journalism school. Please stop by to say hi if you’re there.

If Saturday’s group could learn anything, they should hear from members of the LMA, who routinely impress me by how well they can educate the media about lawyers and their accomplishments.

So what will the journalists be telling the PR folks? What we love love love in story pitches—and, conversely, what may be less than effective when trying to get your content placed.

The lessons that will be explained on Saturday should help those communications professionals (and us media attendees who may get great pitches). But it occurred to me that they are the same lessons that lawyers should take to heart when connecting—either with magazines or with each other.

Here is some of what I’ll discuss at the SPJ event. What other lessons would you add?

  1. Learn before you call: Like most media outlets, our magazine is available online. Plus, my own material is available via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, our website, etc. Given that, opening with “So what do you do there?” or “What kind of stuff do you guys publish?” is the path toward a very short conversation. And that’s true for lawyer connections, too: Read all you can about someone before striving to make a connection.
  2. Read our stuff: This is related to the first point, but it’s worth being explicit. Lawyers and magazines have an awful lot of their record “out there,” and it’s available via the web. Using Google to spot significant verdicts that have gone their way (or not) will help make your ultimate conversation more informed (even if you don’t explicitly bring up that searing loss!).
  3. Connect where it makes sense: Sending blanket queries to everyone and her sister simply does not work. Story ideas should be tailored to the publication and its audience. Similarly, lawyers don’t cotton to outreach that looks to have all the individuality of a widget.
  4. Reveal yourself: When you reach out to someone, let him or her know something about you and/or what you represent. Be sure your email signature provides access to relevant information. And don’t hesitate to provide links to other content that you think will make your connection to the other person more sensible.

Here’s to valuable connections! Have a great weekend.

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