The changing media landscape for law firms
Recent research has revealed just how much the media landscape has changed over the past five years, with brands having to compete harder than ever before for shrinking press opportunities.
Research from Brands2Life and Media Measurement found that there were 21% fewer articles published by top UK media compared to five years ago. During the same period brand-led stories fell by 28%, with ‘big issues’ dominating, accounting for 44% of all media coverage.
For all brands, from supermarkets to law firms, it means having to fight harder than ever to secure coverage.
Based upon an analysis of 25 national and business media titles since 2016, the report finds that articles mentioning brands had fallen by 28%. In legal PR terms, we can see that in the amount of coverage that some corporate announcements such as new partners, new offices or new associations receive compared with five years ago.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has been the key driver of more issue-led coverage in the last 18 months. And even though I don’t think we’ve quite yet seen the shift to ‘big issues’ in legal PR that other brands have experienced, I have noted a shift by the legal media to focus more on law firm activities post pandemic, particularly in relation to mental health, workplace wellbeing, the future of work, environmental issues and the thorny issue of law firms claiming furlough money while reporting huge profits.
How law firms communicated during the pandemic was the driver behind our own research, which examined how firms were responding to the social change going on around them. We found that while they were tripping over themselves to give plenty of advice on the legal implications of Covid-19, very little was communicated about their own response, both in terms of the impact on staff and how they were supporting their communities in dealing with it.
Since then, I have noticed an increasing number of law firm appointees in ESG (environmental, social and governance) positions and we can expect that to filter through much more to law firm activities and their legal PR efforts over the coming years. The Brands2Life research indicates that many brands are putting purpose and sustainability at the heart of their communications.
Yet for law firms to gain media coverage through their legal PR efforts, they will need to consider their values, what they stand for and the type of company they want to be. Authenticity will be key. In the past, law firms have been guilty of operating a tick box mentality to what have previously been seen as ‘softer’ issues. Yet, it is these issues that will be at the heart of their businesses in future, with the media much more likely to scrutinise their ESG response than how many partners have been hired.