Getting in the press is a two-edged sword for small business owners. On the one hand, studies show it can improve brand loyalty, increase the value of your existing marketing strategy, and improve your lead generation. On the other hand, critics and competitors can use press to destroy your good name very quickly. 

Having a good attorney involved early with your press strategy can improve your chances of successfully reaching and influencing your target markets. In this piece, we’ll explore how an attorney can help you prepare a press strategy, pro-actively execute on your timeline to drive your narrative, and effectively defend when you’re under attack.


Prepare a press strategy before you need it

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali and circus showman P.T. Barnum famously believed that there is no such thing as bad publicity. They were clearly not financial advisors, whose industry compliance requirements are legendary, or government contractors, whose classified work must remain a secret.

Compliance is one of the great hindrances when putting your narrative in the press. A lawyer can help you prepare communications strategies for likely scenarios, advise on language and information you may want to use in a publicity campaign, and navigate private sector and government compliance standards such as:

  • Non-disclosure and non-compete agreements 
  • Industry standards, company policies, and contract requirements
  • Classification standards
  • Legal protections for customers, such as those required by hospitals or banks
  • The timing of announcing stages of acquisitions, mergers, and changes of ownership

Like any other part of your business, press should be prepared well before it’s needed. Your attorney can help you avoid crossing lines that may turn publicity opportunities into legal nightmares. 


Execute your press strategy to drive your narrative 

Once you’re ready to use the press to drive your narrative, be sure to double-check with your attorney about the specifics of the campaign. Just as an accountant can advise a tax strategy but still should double-check the specifics before, during, and after implementation, your attorney should take a final look to ensure the general pre-campaign advice is followed during execution.

This is especially important when it comes to timing and tone. I recently wrote about two early-stage detection technology companies that are fighting a court battle with the Federal Trade Commission to secure a merger. Their media presence seems to be guided by communications strategists and legal counsel, at least as evidenced by their aggressive posture, timing of press statements, and the nuanced tone in their messaging. 


Defend during a crisis

Many companies are well equipped to handle day-to-day matters like thought leader opinion pieces, press releases about company goings-on, and interviews. However, sensitive matters like a merger, a lawsuit, ora government inquiry may require bringing in specialized legal advice. This advice can help your existing communications team engage in the public-facing campaign while the attorney engages behind the scenes with a cease-and-desist letter or court filings. And when you must be careful not to cross legal grounds when engaging the press, an attorney can help with framing your message so that it’s compelling, effective, and not going to make matters worse. 


Note: The information contained on this page does not constitute legal advice, and reading the information does not automatically start an attorney-client relationship. The details are meant to serve as guidance, but they are not comprehensive of all situations.


Guest author Dustin Siggins is the founder of Proven Media Solutions and a business columnist. Proven Media Solutions specializes in helping clients get past the media noise to reach and influence target markets.