Media Training for Lawyers – Personal Injury Marketing Minute Podcast #41

Anne Kavanagh and Gigi Lubin are media training experts who work with personal injury lawyers. They have extensive experience coaching law firms as they address the most stressful situations where the camera is rolling. With an extensive interview record, Anne has interviewed six American presidents including Carter, the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama.

In this podcast, Anne and Gigi explain:

  • Why personal injury lawyers need to be on camera
  • How to be confident and collected on camera
  • How to control the interview and keep your narrative on target

Visit Anne & Gigi online here at Legal Communication Strategies: https://www.legalcommunicationstrategies.com/.

See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/.

Personal Injury Marketing Minute 41

Transcript:

Lindsey:

Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield. As a personal injury lawyer, when you hear the term media training, you might initially think this only applies to the big lawyers who spend time talking to the press about high-profile cases. While media training is absolutely essential for those lawyers, it’s also essential for any lawyer who ever talks to anyone ever. So pretty much every lawyer. Whether you are talking to the press or making a YouTube video or recording a podcast, you are given the opportunity to either showcase your strengths or you have a risk of damaging your reputation.

While 50 years ago, a bad interview got buried in the digital age, the footage lives forever, so you must get it right the first time. Anne Kavanagh and Gigi Lubin are media training experts who work with personal injury lawyers. They have extensive experience coaching law firms and their clients as they address the most stressful situations where the camera is rolling. Thank you so much for joining us.

The Importance of the Soundbite

Anne:

Thank you for having us, we appreciate it.

Lindsey:

Well, tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background.

Anne:

Well, I was… Well first of all, both Gigi and I are graduates of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. We were a year apart, so we weren’t there at the same time, but we did have many of the same professors and some of the same experiences. I went on and worked for almost 30 years as a television reporter, most of those years in Chicago. And I left about 11 years ago, and I launched this firm MediaPros 24/7, because I saw a lot of good people who didn’t come across well in their interviews just because they needed a little training, a few skills, a few tweaks, and I thought, well, maybe there’s an opening for me.

As it turned out, I would say 75% of my clients at least ended up being attorneys and most of them well-known personal injury attorneys in Chicago. Some of them I had known through the years covering stories with them. And when I left, they reached out to me. In fact, it was funny, one attorney who was well known in Chicago, I did a story with her and her clients, and the story turned out very well for her case and helped prompt some very nice settlements, but she could not speak in a sound bite. And I felt so bad because I had limited time and I just couldn’t use her sound bite.

I used her client’s sound bites, but I couldn’t use hers. and I felt bad because she had been so great to work with. So I did of course say her name and I showed pictures of her walking with her clients. But I called her up at the time and I said, “I feel bad, but you just have to learn how to nail that 20 second sound bite because your sound bites are two minutes and they ramble.” And to her credit, she took it well. And she’s like, “Well, thank you for mentioning my name. The story’s been very helpful.” So fast forward a year later when I left, she was one of the first people that called me and said, “Can you help me?” And I said, “Of course.”

Then after that, she became a sound bite machine and did media interviews for years and years and continues to do so. So that’s kind of how I got to where I am now. And I’ve worked on a lot of high-profile controversial cases in Chicago, the Jason Van Dyke, Laquan McDonald shooting case is one of them. Another one is Jussie Smollett, where Gigi worked with me on that one as well, and that was quite controversial and really worldwide media. We kind of started working together I would say about four years ago, we had a mutual friend who thought that we would be a good team, and we met and we agreed. So-

Gigi:

We are a good team.

Anne:

… So I’ll let Gigi say a little bit more about her background.

Gigi:

Right. So Anne mentioned that we both are graduates from the Medill School of Journalism, but she didn’t say we have master’s degrees from there. And so yes, we both have masters from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. I took kind of a different career path than Anne, where I was a television news reporter for a few years. I went on to Disneyland in their broadcast publicity department. So I worked on Main Street USA with Mickey and Minnie and all these others and met a lot of celebrities, some who really needed media training.

But I then, and I also worked with a large float builder for the Tournament of Rose’s Parade, which people see every year. We broadcast live from one of the floats. That was a first that was ever done, and that was my idea. Then I rode the float too. It was Bank of America. I worked with major consumer brands launching products all over the country. For instance, carbon monoxide alarms. That was a product I was part of introducing and getting them actually required by law, just like smoke alarms are required.

I’ve worked with big city fire departments’ media training. There are a lot of fire chiefs, one who went on to become the FEMA director and acted as on-air spokesperson for a large consumer product brand that works with fire departments. And I’m also a board member for the Chicago Fire Department, Survive Alive House Foundation. So basically, Anne and I are working together, as she said, on a lot of interesting legal clients and we’re really excited to be able to tell you about it.

Lindsey:

Well, and with legal clients, it is so important for them to be able to stand up in front of a camera and as you said, Anne, gave a short sound bite related to the case without rambling on. And lawyers can be great at this, but they can definitely need some additional support. Where there are a lot of lawyers out there who want to give all of the information and paint a very big story because lawyers are natural storytellers. But in the immediate situation, that’s not necessarily the type of communication that you need to be getting across.

What is Media Training and Why Do Lawyers Need it?

Lindsey: So in your own words, what is media training and why do lawyers need it?

Anne:

Well, media training, I think we break it into three different categories. And the number one thing which you hit on right there is lawyers are generally great talkers and storytellers, however, they’re not known for being short and concise. And as you said, they kind of want to tell that whole story, which they can’t in that sound bite. They really do need to know how to nail that sound bite. So that’s the first thing that we work with lawyers on is getting them in that mindset and helping them create that 20 second sound bite. And the great news is because they are such talented talkers and storytellers and they’re smart people that they grasp it very quickly and they can turn it around and become very good at this in a very short amount of time.

The other thing we want to do, especially with TV, and it’s not just doing TV interviews, but as you know today, everything is recorded so you’re always on camera. So we really want to give them those performance skills that they need to do well in TV. And often it’s just tweaking things. What’s the right thing to wear for the camera? Body language, eye contact, working a little bit on their delivery, knowing when to pause, knowing when to smile, things like that. And again, our lawyers catch onto that very quickly. I guess the main thing is we want them to be energetic and passionate and enthusiastic. Once we can warm them up a little bit, they get it. We also do all our media training on camera so they can see for themselves how they come across and they make very quick progress.

And then the final thing is how to control the interview. And Gigi, and I believe this is so important because so many times smart people, including lawyers, they go into the interview and they think, “Well, I know my case very well. I can handle any question they want to ask me,” which is probably true. However, that’s not controlling the interview, that’s allowing the reporter to control the interview. And of course, Gigi and I know that because we were the ones controlling the interviews for so many years.

So what we try to teach them is how they can control the interview and control the headline and the main takeaway. So we work with them to think before they go into the interview and have a strategy. “What do you want that main takeaway to be?” Okay, let’s create some messaging, four or five 20 second sound bites that kind of really make that point. And then we urge them to consider what questions will be asked and in most cases you can predict, I would say 95% of the questions. And then we also tell them, “Okay, think about where your weaknesses are, what could those negative questions be?” And come up with responses to that.

And then we work with them on bridging back to their main messaging. So when they have a question they don’t want to answer or they think is irrelevant or negative for their case, how they can gracefully pivot back to their main messaging, not seeming like, “No comment,” or, “I can’t address that.” But gracefully moving back to what they really want to talk about. I think that makes the biggest difference in interviews and I think that Gigi would agree with me.

Gigi:

I do agree definitely with Anne. I mean, it’s important, Anne always says this, and I agree wholeheartedly, is you want to create your headline and then keep referring back to it. And what Anne was saying too about bridging back, which we can get into in a minute, but is you don’t ever want to repeat a negative statement. That’s really crucial. You want to know how to answer and how to reply to those negative questions. But you never want to take part of the question and repeat it back in your answer so that they could just use that negative clip and you look like you’re being really defensive.

Lindsey:

That’s a great point and a great tip. You want to be able to control that message and only put out exactly what you want other people to understand and take out of what you’re presenting. But with so many important factors that go into getting in front of the camera and so many unknowns, I know a lot of lawyers who are just purely intimidated and because of that, they dodge the camera and they shy away.

Why Personal Injury Lawyers Need to Be On Camera

Lindsey: So why is it important for personal injury lawyers to get in front of the camera in the first place?

Anne:

Well, I think it’s especially important for personal injury attorneys because they really need to get out there and frame their cases. We kind of have a program with our attorneys where they’ll get ready to file a case and they will give us an advanced copy of the complaint and we’ll look at it and with them, we’ll work out a media strategy so we can roll that out to the media. So they get out in front of the case and they can frame it to the public.

And unlike corporate law, which a lot of people don’t even understand mergers and acquisitions and all that stuff, the public can really relate to personal injury law because it usually involves regular people like ourselves who something unfortunate and really terrible has happened to. They need justice and they need some kind of compensation because oftentimes they have lifelong injuries. So they have compelling stories and their stories that the public can relate to and are interested in. So it’s really good to get in front of the case.

What we’ve found is that with our attorneys, oftentimes it has prompted settlements because the insurance companies or whoever are watching all this media coverage and they’re like, “Whoa, this is not good. And think how it would be in front of a jury. We better just cut our losses and settle the case.” And that often happens. I think the other thing that’s good for the personal injury attorneys is it gets their name out there and people know who they are.

And as you know, when people are the victim of some kind of negligence or medical malpractice or whatever it may be, they’re usually regular people who have had no contact with the legal system. They don’t know who to call or who to use or who’s good. And so they can remember, “Hey, I saw that lawyer on TV and he was talking about that birth injury case,” or, “This attorney was talking about abuse at a nursing home,” or whatever the topic may be. So I think it really helps attract clients and also referrals from other attorneys.

Lindsey:

Absolutely.

Gigi:

Oh, I’m sorry. I just wanted to add one other thing is that media training often makes people feel comfortable. They might be afraid before, but once they do media training and have some tools and experience in practice, they’re confident and comfortable in front of the camera rather than afraid.

Anne:

And we really do a lot of interview prep with our clients too. We come up with the questions that we think the reporters will ask and including the negative ones. And we really do mock interviews with them and with their clients because oftentimes we have the clients talk to the media too. So we really work a lot with them before they go in front of the media. So I think as to Gigi’s point, I think our clients, by the time they get in front of the media, they probably feel pretty confident.

Lindsey:

It becomes second nature the more that they practice. As with anything.

Anne:

[inaudible 00:13:52] them. Our interviews are going to be a lot harder than the ones you do for [inaudible 00:13:56]. If you’re okay with our interviews, you’ll be okay when you go in front of the full press.

Non-News Camera Opportunities for Lawyers

Lindsey:

That’s funny. Well, and we’ve been talking a lot about going in front of the press and talking in front of the camera, but other than news interviews, what opportunities do lawyers have to get in front of the camera in a non-new setting?

Gigi:

Well, there’s so many different ways that people speak nowadays. I mean, for instance, that presentations may be at a bar association event or speeches or community forums, and you have one bad comment out there and it can haunt you forever. So there are so many different places that we end up speaking and being asked to speak at that it’s really important to be able to have the confidence and know what you’re going to say and how to say it.

Anne:

Gigi’s so right. And today, obviously everything is recorded, everything is streamed. People can watch it online. So there’s really nowhere to hide in that extent. I think you almost have to think, “I’m always going to be recorded, so I always have to be camera ready.” And also, a lot of law firms today, they do their own videos that they put on their websites. They do social media where they appear on camera. A lot of them have video bios. So it really is, it really needs to be in their toolbox today in 2023.

Lindsey:

That’s so true. And in today’s attention-driven economy, it’s all about where people’s eyeballs are and if you aren’t giving them something to watch, then somebody else will. And you need to make sure that the content that you’re producing and anytime that you get in front of the camera and make something new, that it is a representation of who you are and your capabilities and your eloquence. and not look like you’re being held ransom and being forced to be put in front of the camera.

So I mean, having those skills are going to be, and a lot of times that first introduction that you have to a potential client, and it’ll be the first time that they get to meet you quote unquote, “face to face”, so being media trained and being able to project your best voice and your true brand while not tripping over your tongue is a huge asset.

What Should Personal Injury Lawyers Make Content About?

Lindsey: And so when creating their own content and media opportunities, what should personal injury lawyers be talking about?

Anne:

You mean when they’re creating content for social media and whatnot?

Lindsey:

For social media, for their websites, what types of things are going to generate interest?

Anne:

Well, a few things, and obviously they should talk about their cases, right? I think a lot of the lawyers that we work with, we check the wires in the morning and we see what’s going on. And when we find interesting cases that, especially when they pertain to the kind of law that they handle. We might find a case in North Carolina and we’ll put it on our lawyer’s Facebook page or social media in Chicago because that happens to be his specialty and he can make a little comment on it or whatever. It just kind of reminds his followers or her followers that this guy or woman has an expertise in this and they know a lot about this. So we definitely put newsworthy cases on there that pertain to their practice.

Also, a lot of personal information now, as Gigi had mentioned before, when they give speeches or presentations or awards or things like that. But also we’ve found, especially for personal injury lawyers, it’s good for them to give some personal information about themselves. Things that they can form a connection with followers and people can relate to them. I had one client, he was actually my first legal client, and he and his wife who was also an attorney at the firm, had two sets of triplets within two years. So that-

Lindsey:

Gee wiz.

Anne:

… Now the kids are in high school, but when I started working for them, they were babies. And that just caught on, and everybody related to that, not just followers, but future clients, other attorneys. So it really, I think, humanized them. And Gigi worked on a great project for another one of our clients, and I’ll let her tell you about it because she was the lead on it, but it was really beneficial for the client.

Gigi:

So it turns out that this client had a heart attack and died on, well, died. He was-

Anne:

Thankfully, he didn’t die.

Gigi:

… He didn’t die. But he was on the golf course and a caddy saw and ran over and gave CPR and saved his life. He was in a coma for 12 days and had some different procedures done, but he lived and he’s fine, and he’s back at work and he is leading his firm. And so what we did was we suggested doing a CPR class with the fire department for some of the attorney’s at the firm and some of his friends. We got the story on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and everybody was fascinated by that story.

He ended up paying for the college, for the rest of college for the caddy.

Lindsey:

Wow.

Gigi:

And just a really heartwarming story and people really responded to that. He heard from so many people. Some people who had referred cases to him earlier, ended up reaching out to him that he hadn’t heard from them in years. So personal stories like that are always of interest to people, to everybody.

Lindsey:

And it humanizes them.

Anne:

It really does. It humanizes them. It really does. It humanizes them. And in his case, he also, he used it as an opportunity to encourage people to really learn CPR. Because when he was out on the golf course, none of the people with him really knew it, or they hadn’t done it for years and years. And this young caddy had thankfully recently taken a class in it, so he ran over and he really saved his life and got his heart going until the paramedics came and obviously took over. So it was also a way to educate the public about the importance of this.

And that’s another point because a lot of personal injury lawyers, as you know, are very involved with causes or charities. So that’s another thing that we do, is really promote what they’re involved in. And most of our lawyers are involved in a wide range of good things and so we want to get some coverage for that too.

Lindsey:

Highlighting and humanizing the lawyers, showing where their real heart is. I mean, unfortunately, there are a lot of bad lawyers out there who have given the legal community somewhat of a rough rep reputation to combat. So the more you can humanize and connect on a personal level and showcase the goodness of the vast majority of lawyers who are out there, that is, that’s a great tip.

How to Get More Comfortable In Front of the Camera

Lindsey: And kind of going back to media training for some other tips, what are some ways that personal injury lawyers can get more comfortable with being in front of the general public going forward with these types of stories and being more comfortable in front of the camera itself?

Anne:

Well, I definitely think to prepare. Too many people don’t prepare. They just go and they think they can wing it because they’re a good talker and that’s always when they get in trouble. I’ve dealt with so many great communicators, public figures that, I mean to the very top level, even presidents of the United States and even these people need to prepare for interviews. As good as they are and as much experience as they have, they still have to prepare.

So I would say to the attorneys, really prepare, get your talking points, decide what your main messaging is, and practice. Practice, practice, practice. And Gigi and I always tell our clients to really practice saying the stuff out loud. We come in with cameras and we help people do it in a very formal way, but just record yourself on your iPhone and you can see how you come across and you can make tweaks. So that’s what I would recommend. Gigi, do you have any other thoughts there?

Controlling the Interview

Gigi:

Well, practice out loud is so important as Anne, as you just said. I mean, there’s so many tips that we give in media training. The first thing that’s so important, as Anne mentioned earlier, is to decide what you want the headline to be and that way you can control the interview and you want to keep pivoting back to it.

She also mentioned about lawyers being great talkers but it’s hard sometimes for them to keep it to short sound bites. You want your sound bite. That’s when they use a clip of you talking to be about no more than 20 seconds. And you don’t have to tell everything right off the bat. In print interviews, you can do a little longer, but not too much longer. And you don’t have to say everything in the first answer. It’s a conversation. You want to keep it flowing.

As we discussed earlier, you want to anticipate negative questions and prepare responses for them and this is where bridge comments come in handy. We can talk more about that later, but it’s kind of the, “Oh, well that’s a really good point you make, but let me tell you what I think is really important,” and you can come back to that and that gets you out of difficult parts of questions. And also, Anne’s really good about this, talking about when crafting your sound bites, you want to begin with a key statement or a declarative sentence, then back it up with a fact or anecdote and reasons that back it up or explain it. I don’t know if you can give an example off the top of your head, Anne, of that, you’re really good at-

Anne:

Okay, let me try. You’re putting me on the spot here.

Lindsey:

Not to put you on the spot.

Anne:

So it is good to start with a declarative sentence and then you want to back it up with an example, an anecdote or a statistic. And you want to keep it about 20 seconds. Okay, so let me try off the top of my head. In 2023, media training is really essential for anyone who’s going to be talking to reporters. On TV, you have about 20 seconds to make your point and if you mess up, it will live on forever in digital content. So you really want to make sure that you put your best foot forward.

Gigi:

Great, excellent example.

Lindsey:

Very nice, nicely done.

Gigi:

Anne talks in sound bites. She’s really good at that.

Anne:

Well, that comes from working on TV for 30 years. But people learn it very quickly and the lawyers really do pick up on it because, and we said this before, but it’s so true, they are good storytellers and talkers and they’re smart people, so they get it very quickly.

 

How to Get Off of an Unwanted Topic in an Interview: The Bridge

Lindsey:

So I’m going to put you on the spot with another example. We’ve been talking a little bit about this, the bridge technique. And so if a lawyer is in an interview and they feel like it’s not going well, they’re going down a rabbit hole, they’re getting asked questions that they aren’t prepared for, a question comes at them and they need to pivot the conversation. Can you give me an example of this? I’m just going to put you on the spot.

Anne:

Well ask us a question that we don’t want to answer. Think about a snarky question that we’re not going to want to answer.

Lindsey:

Oh my, now you just turned the tables on me and now I’m going to be put on this spot.

Is Media Training Expensive?

Anne:

Okay, why don’t you ask us something like, “Well, but isn’t media training really expensive?”

Lindsey:

Oh my goodness. But isn’t media training so expensive?

Anne:

Well, no matter what your business is, whether it’s a law firm or whether it’s a restaurant, you have to make some investments in the business. And as a lawyer, you really have to talk to the media that is part of your job. So you want to make sure you put your best foot forward and you have the skills and the knowledge you need to do strong media interviews. The payoff down the road will be great for you and the firm.

Lindsey:

I’m going to do it again because it took me that long to think of another question.

Anne:

What?

 

Can’t I Just Submit a Press Release Instead of Talking on Camera?

Lindsey:

But can’t I just submit a press release or a written interview without getting in front of the camera?

Anne:

Well, news organizations in many cases receive 500 to 1,000 news releases a day. And especially when you’re dealing with TV, they need the picture, they need the sound bite. So a news release really isn’t going to cut it in many cases so you really do need to know how to speak on camera. And today, even in print, they are recording your interviews and they’re often having the full interview on their website for people to watch on camera. In fact, just before we got… So that’s my answer.

But away from my answer is that just before we got on, Gigi will laugh at this because she knows I’m obsessed with the Royal family. But anyways, just before we went on, I was reading a New York Times story about Prince Harry’s interview on the Colbert Show and they, sure enough, they had a link to the whole interview. So it wasn’t just the print story and I was watching the link before we went on. So today, everything is really on camera, even print interviews, right, Gigi?

Gigi:

Absolutely. And keep in mind, you ask about a press release. “Can’t I send a press release?” Well, a press release can’t talk and somebody else can. And if you don’t, your competition will and so you can’t be afraid. And as Anne said, they’re recording even print interviews but for TV and radio, if you don’t give a sound bite and can’t appear on camera, you don’t get the interview. So you have to really be prepared.

Bridge Statement Examples

And the bridge statements, Lindsey, that you asked about earlier, I mean, one of the things that I would love is to say something like, “Well, you know what? That’s not the issue. I think here’s what my viewpoint is.” Or, “Well, here is what I am certain of.” And you hear politicians do this all the time, “Before I answer that, let me just say this,” and then you answer your question. So especially in TV and radio interviews, that works because typically they’re not going to get back to it and especially if it’s live, then you’ve deflected that and you’re out of it. But for print, sometimes you’re going to have to have a backup and know what you want to say.

Oftentimes I tell people a good one to keep in your back pocket is to say, “You know what? Let me check on that and I’ll get back to you.” And sometimes they don’t get back to you, and if they do, you’re more prepared with your answer. So they’re not going to argue with that. You never want to make something up. I don’t think this is what our audience would do anyway, but you know, don’t want to say something that you’re not exactly sure of. And they’re human, they get it. You don’t have that answer. You want to check on it and get back with them and sometimes they won’t check back with you.

There’s also some other ones, some other bridge statements like, “First, let me make this point.” And there’s other ones like, “That’s a good question, but I might have already mentioned that one.” “I’m not sure about that but what I do know is this,” and, “What I really believe is this.” So there’s lots of ways to get away from that and back to what your original message point was and that’s when you say that. And it’s okay to repeat yourself. Sometimes reporters will ask the same question several times so that you’ll say it differently and they’ll get a better something out of you that you might not want it want to have said. And we always tell people it’s okay to repeat. You do not have to come up with something different.

Anne:

And then sometimes you can just change the wording around just a little bit so you don’t sound like a robot.

Gigi:

Right.

Anne:

But you can do that. And I covered city hall in Chicago for many years and there was just one reporter and she just would never let things go. And she would, one time we counted and she asked the mayor the same question 52 times. But to his credit, he stayed on message and finally even she as relentless as she was, had to move on.

Lindsey:

Those are all really great ways to control the narrative and really take control over the message that you want to project. Because obviously the media has an agenda when they are trying to get an interview done. They want to get that clip that is a little bit more interesting or intriguing than maybe the facts really are. And it sounds like there’s a real struggle going on between what the media wants to get out of somebody versus the narrative that they are trying to control and you need to be able to come prepared for that and not fall into those traps.

Contact Gigi and Anne at Legal Communication Strategies

I mean, we could go on about this all day long, but I will let listeners get in touch with you directly. So if somebody does want to learn more, if they have an upcoming interview, if they want some general techniques and tips before they get in front of the camera to record a podcast or record a YouTube video, how can somebody get in touch with you?

Anne:

Well, we’re based in Chicago, but we do things all over the country, and so they can just call Gigi or I. Our contact or email us. Our contact information is going to be on your podcast page, I believe. So just give us a call or shoot us an email.

Lindsey:

All right. Well thank you so much for your time.

 

About The Author

More Articles